Property Easements and Public Right-of-Way

Construction season has begun, but it is important to remember as a property owner that construction is not limited to just roadways. It happens in easements and other areas of the public right-of-way too. The city fields questions about work happening in the right-of-way and easements throughout the year. 

Easements and right-of-ways are essential for neighborhood services and infrastructure such as stormwater drainage, sanitary sewer, cable, fiber optic, phone, natural gas lines, electrical distribution, and more.

Before a company can work within an easement or public right-of-way, they must submit a permit to the Johnston Public Works Department, which will review and approve the permits if they meet city guidelines. 
Below are some frequently asked questions about easements and right-of-way.

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Who has the right to work in an easement?
The party to whom the easement was granted, so if the city is a named party, and if it is a public utility easement, then it is limited to public utilities including phone, cable and electrical.

Easements are areas for utilities, stormwater drainage, sewer lines, and electrical if it is underground. Electrical, phone and cable companies are a few examples of companies that may be working within the easement area.

Where is the right-of-way located?
The right-of-way is generally the area of land between the back of the sidewalk closest to your home and the city street. If your property has a sidewalk, property lines are typically located 1′ from the edge of the sidewalk that is closest to your home.
Does a company need approval from the property owner to work in the easement? 
No. Easements give the city and utilities the right to construct and maintain facilities, or infrastructure, in the area of land designated as an easement. They are not required to notify the property owner before they begin work in this area. 

What are the common types of easements?
The most common types of easements are public utility, ingress/egress, stormwater or sanitary sewer, overland flowage, landscape buffer, pedestrian walkway or trail, and temporary construction. 

I understand additional fiber-optic is coming to Johnston this year. How do I tell if MetroNet is working in the easement or if it is another company?
As a courtesy, MetroNet will notify property owners when they are working in the easement and right-of-way. 

MetroNet’s planned notifications to residents as follows:
Visit for more information on where MetroNet has started construction within the city limits.

Other providers in Johnston (primarily Mediacom and Century Link) already have their infrastructure in place. If you see them working within the public right-of-way or utility easements, they are probably completing system maintenance and /or upgrades.
Who do I contact to find out where the easement is located on my property?
It is a good idea to know where easements are located on your property.
The plat for your property usually contains the location of easements. Plats are recorded  at the Polk County Recorders office, and you can generally look it up online here. You will need to know your plat name, which can be found by address search here.

If you are unsure of where your easement is on your property, you can call Polk County Recorder’s Office at (515) 286-3160 or view the real estate records online.  

Permit Process

 To obtain a right-of-way permit form, click here (PDF).  If there is a need to close a lane on the street due to right of way work a permit must be filled out in advance. A copy of the lane closure permit form is available by clicking here (PDF).
A copy of the company’s liability insurance, an annual security bond in the amount of $10,000 and the $50.00 permit fee is needed to process the permit. Effective May 1st, the certificate of liability insurance as well as the right of way bond will need to be submitted with each right of way application.  Public Works will no longer be keeping those documents on file.

 Inspections will not be scheduled for any sidewalks and approaches until a permit is approved.
Please note that private water, sanitary, storm and other utilities are not located by the City of Johnston or Iowa one call.  It is the contractor's responsibility to have private utilities located.

Please use the following link to pay for the permit fee online.

If you have any question regarding the information needed please call Lori at 515-278-0822. These documents can be submitted by email to Lori Mason or Steve Gillette