non-profit housing developer

It belongs to Boardroom
It belongs to Courtroom

Issue: A non-profit housing developer had a utility pole in the footprint of its construction site.  The developer worked for weeks to convince the utility to move the pole. The utility’s engineering department was responding slowly, jeopardizing the developer’s construction schedule.  The engineering department also wanted the developer to pay for a state-of-the-art replacement for the pole and its attached lines. In an effort to avoid a Courtroom issue, the developer asked us whether the utility was right, and whether we could do anything to expedite removal of the pole.

As a first step, we worked with the client to determine whether the utility’s poles and wires were located on property our client owned and, if so, whether the utility had received permission to place them there. We located an ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey that the developer had obtained when it purchased its property. That survey established that the pole was on our client’s property.  A review of the land titles for the client’s property, which the client conducted in conjunction with the same purchase, revealed no documents granting the utility permission to install its poles and wires on the property, but that search went back only fifty years.  We made further historical inquiries to establish that the utility never received permission to install its pole and wires.

Armed with this information, we advised our client that it could take a hard line with the utility – threaten Courtroom action – and still achieve the Boardroom’s goals, reducing the client’s construction costs and keeping its project on schedule.  The client agreed with our strategy.  We thus contacted the utility’s legal staff and provided our title research.  We also told the utility that if it refused to remove and relocate its pole and wires promptly, at the utility’s cost, our client would sue the utility for trespass and for the cost of any resulting construction delay.

Our threatened Courtroom arguments convinced the utility that it bore complete responsibility for removing and relocating the pole.  We then worked with the client and the utility to speed up the removal process, including expediting the utility’s receipt of local relocation permits.  We also helped the client make sure that the relocated utilities did not create new interference with the client’s development.  

We brought value to our client in several ways.  We quickly marshaled the key evidence and arguments needed to have our client excused from paying any relocation costs.  We knew how to reach the right utility personnel – those who were able not merely to think about our client’s dispute, but to settle that dispute promptly.  We presented the client’s evidence and arguments cogently and quickly.  And once we had convinced the utility to do the right thing, we mastered the technical and legal aspects of relocation, thereby ensuring completion of the utility’s work without any delay of our client’s construction. All efforts minimized the matter’s effect on the Boardroom and kept the matter out of the Courtroom.