Right of way ordinance under review

The term “right of way,” isn’t just for motorists and sailors. It’s actually a type of easement, but for the purposes of city government, a right of way allows anyone to pass through a portion of property as if it were publicly-owned.  

In commerce and utilities, the principle works in similar ways to determine things like network access for the telecommunications industry and influences the rates providers pay for their data services and other utility fees, which often get passed along to the consumer.

A public hearing on the issue was held at the June 21 Keizer City Council meeting. This initial hearing was to authorize a sole-source procurement contract with ROW Consulting, LLC. No one registered to speak and the motion passed unanimously.

ROW, a data company based in Oregon City, will be assisting Keizer in the development of an ordinance governing the city’s right of way. In a memo to the council, City Attorney Shannon Johnson said the staff was unable to find any other providers for this specialized service, which is why the sole-source process was used.

The issue first came up for the council in December 2021, after the city began receiving complaints about the lack of consistent fees and regulations for right of way users. In Keizer, this includes gas/electric companies, sewer/water utilities, Comcast and CenturyLink, among others.

The city’s Interim City Manager at the time, Wes Hare, said there are pros and cons to the city adopting a right of way ordinance. A legal firm specializing in telecommunications, Beery, Elsner and Hammond, LLC, was hired for initial consultation, and recommended the city adopt an ordinance.

Currently, already-existing utility providers pay a franchise fee in order to use the right of way, but Keizer has some non-franchised telecom providers operating in the right of way as well. Since they don’t pay a franchise or right of way fee, unlike Comcast and CenturyLink, there was a concern about discrimination between telecommunication providers.

ROW has assisted several local cities with a similar ordinance already, including Milwaukie, West Linn and Tigard. They will be analyzing best practices as well as Keizer’s unique situation, and then present their findings and recommendations to the council.