correct grading from street to fence line

by Rebecca

I live in a 107 yr old house, so decided to build a wooden fence in my backyard for privacy (vs. metal or plastic). It is 6 feet tall and has two gates--one is 8 foot wide and swings in towards the yard to allow vehicles and the other is a 3 foot wide gate that swings out to allow foot traffic and my mower through. The city reconstructed the road behind my house, and raised the height of the road by 20 inches, so now there is a steep pitch between my fence (which is about 4 feet from the edge of the road) and the bottom of my fence. So now my gate only opens 1/2 out, so the city has agreed to flip it so it opens inward. But the neighbor's property to my south has new fill, 3 feet higher than my property. And with snow I am concerned that the wooden fence will snow clearing pushed up against it 1/2 up the sides, rotting it faster. The pitch from the road to the bottom of my fence is really steep now, so keeping a 1" space between the grass and the fence will be impossible. So I'd like the city to move my fence and grade the property to match the road level and my neighbor's property. But they are balking, and say they will only pay for the gate to be opened a different direction. They did not notify me of these changes to the grade...they gave us flat drawings but never said, "your back property line will be 2 feet higher, and too high to drive onto your property, mow, or even clear snnow effectively". Can you tell me what the proper length from the road the grading should be? I figure it should be brought back into my yard by another 10 feet or so, and leveled with my neighbors property. Drainage should be controlled by the street redesign and the draining built into the gutters, etc. Thanks! Confused in Montana


Hi Rebecca (confused in Montana!),

You have a few issues going on here.

Your specific question was…

Can you tell me what the proper length from the road the grading should be? I figure it should be brought back into my yard by another 10 feet or so, and leveled with my neighbor’s property.

In order to answer this, I need to know the layout of the rest of your property. You can create a less severe slope by doing this, but my main question is where will any water be directed to? Will it just sit where the slope ends or will it be directed somewhere else? I can see the existing slope that the town created is unacceptable as it is at 41%.

If they add fill and create a gentler slope for another 10 feet, that will bring it to 14 feet from the road where the grade has been raised 20”. This will create an 11% slope. If you know what a handicap ramp looks like, it is a grade a little over 8%. (This is just a visual for you.) But again, where will the water go?

I would go to the town and tell them they are creating a drainage issue for you…aside from the fence. That is the bigger problem. I would speak with the town engineer. They should really put in a small retaining wall either at the street or near your fence. Whether they will do this or not is something else, but that would help the drainage. I really can’t see any way that you will have access to the street now, regardless.

As far as your neighbor raising his grade by 3 feet, I would say this is illegal. A homeowner cannot create a situation where more water leads to a neighbor’s property than before any land modifications. This is something that you have the choice of dealing with legally. This is not the town’s responsibility, but it is your neighbor’s.

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