Re: Plat maps - Posted by ray@lcorn
Posted by ray@lcorn on April 24, 2000 at 10:10:22:
Plats are usually filed with deeds, or at least referenced in the chain of title and kept in another related index system. Some jurisdictions will record surveys on microfiche, then catalog the film. Our courthouse makes actual copies of the plats and files them in a plat cabinet located in the deed room. We look up the deed and read the “being” clause. (Being the land acquired by the Grantor herein on such and such date blah blah blah, recorded in deed book blank page blank…) This clause will often reference a plat if one exists. if not, read the property description for reference to a section map or covenants of subdivision.
Depending on where you are, your deed references may be from sections rather than metes and bounds. This makes searching title a bit more cumbersome (to me, but I’m an easterner!), but if you ask for help it should be fairly simple to ascertain the ownership of the alley by examining the plats and maps in the chain of title. The original subdivision map is often the best source of information. You may see a reference in the deed description that says “being Lot X in the Blankety blank subdivision recorded at deed book XX page XXX…”
My guess is that the alley is a “paper street”. These are rights of way (ROW) that were platted with the original subdivision, but for whatever reason were never built. If the township accepted the plat with the public right of way, then the township owns the ground. In that case, you can petition the township to vacate the right of way. It would be a good idea to have your neighbors involved and in agreement with the request to vacate the right of way. In most cases when a right of way is vacated the real estate then transfers to the adjacent landowners. So each landowner would get half of the width of the alley, and the neighbor on the other side of the alley would get the other half, and so on down the length of the alley.
In some cases the township may want the land to be purchased, but this is hard to justify if the residents have been caring for the land and no improvements have been constructed. Arguments aginst purchase include that the vacation will put the ground back on the tax rolls, the town will not be responsible to build and maintain the alley, the town will have no liability for the alley, etc.
One test often used to determine whether a township “owns” a right of way is the “official map” of the jurisdiction. If the town has an “official map” that shows this particular ROW, then it is a public ROW by default. If the map doesn’t show it, and the town asserts no ownership, then you have a common easement that can be disolved most easily with the concurrence of all adjacent landowners. if someone objects, then things may get complicated. The only way I know to obtain the ROW through quit claim is if you own all the lots that front the alley. In that case you can petition for the vacation of the entire subdivision, which renders the alley moot.
One note: I’m not a lawyer… but I may sound like one from paying so many of them through the years… I’ve been involved in two of these actions… I won one and lost one. Learned a lot from both.
Hope this helps,