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Alleyways


Heightsite

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Where can I find info on our allies like what are the responsibilities of the neighboring property owners versus the CoH, can I claim the land, etc. I'm curious about how many allies are still in existence and why the ordinances are so gray in this matter. I've talked with the city, the HHA, and attorneys, but there are no clear answers to be found.

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Where can I find info on our allies like what are the responsibilities of the neighboring property owners versus the CoH, can I claim the land, etc. I'm curious about how many allies are still in existence and why the ordinances are so gray in this matter. I've talked with the city, the HHA, and attorneys, but there are no clear answers to be found.

The alleys are city ROW's. You can claim (occupy) them but if a developer or the city wants to pave and use the alley as a ROW they will and they always win. 

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Heights alley access was litigated by Premier Victorian Homes in 1998-2002. The trial court found for Premier and the court of appeals affirmed. Its a very long case (crazy long), but the gist of it was, the city never gave up the alleys. 

 

If you have nothing better do do, Premier Victorian Homes vs. Universal Printing (et al), in Harris Co. District Courts, Cause # 98-13161

 

Some resident agitation before the case was filed can be found here:

 

http://www.houstonpress.com/1998-07-23/news/alley-fighting/

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So, regardless of how long a neighbor's shed has encroached the ROW Line, should anyone want access, the property owner would be responsible for removing any and all obstructions to the defined ROW area (9' or so)? Utility lines run behind our homes which has been the prevailing justification for the City to have access.

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Yes, the obstruction can be removed. In the late 1980's many of the N-S sewer lines in the Harvard/ Arlington/ Cortlandt area were redone, by a very efficient (read: private contractor) crew using a laser, working its way down the alleys installing PVC and reconnecting each house as they went along. They were down 8'+ in some places. This required having complete access to the alleys, and it worked just fine. Re-lining technology today probably would not require this kind of effort. BTW I think the alleys are 15' wide.

 

The wider alleys found in the "industrial" blocks (West 17th, 18th, 19th etc) have a lot more older encroachment going on, including by living space, not just garages and sheds. Alleys there are wider to allow for train track sidings. City seems to be pretty accommodating with these (older existing only) as long as their trucks can get through. Probably their thinking is that over time, as property is redeveloped, the encroaching improvements will be removed and not rebuilt. Sewer re-lines were done on 19th a couple of years ago without much trouble. 

 

Its good that the alleys are kept clear. There is power, phone, cable, sewer, sometimes gas, sometimes water there. In areas of the city where there is only a 6' easement for utilities at the back lot line, crews have problems with access, and utilities are sometimes moved to the street at great expense. Also open alleys mean back entrance to garage is possible. The big negative is probably the crime factor. Some folks install 10' cedar topped with concertina after the third invasion. 

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The wider alleys found in the "industrial" blocks (West 17th, 18th, 19th etc) have a lot more older encroachment going on, including by living space, not just garages and sheds. Alleys there are wider to allow for train track sidings. City seems to be pretty accommodating with these (older existing only) as long as their trucks can get through. Probably their thinking is that over time, as property is redeveloped, the encroaching improvements will be removed and not rebuilt. Sewer re-lines were done on 19th a couple of years ago without much trouble. 

 

 

 

The alley ROW's in the West 20's are as much as 38 ft and encroachments are commonplace. Only a few blocks have full-length improved alleys, and most would require significant demolition (both fences and structures) to fully clear the RoW.

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