Deputy Supervisor's Note: Explaining easements and the term forever wild

Last month, I shared a note outlining the importance of vegetation management and stream cleaning. In the note, I mentioned the terms easement and right of way. As a follow-up, I thought it would be helpful to go into more detail on what the terms mean for you as a resident.


An easement is the designated right of an authority to access land it does not own. Throughout Town, easements exist to allow the Town of Penfield and utility companies to gain access to areas for the upkeep of land and infrastructure.

Specifically, as it relates to the Town, easements allow us to access infrastructure such as sewer lines, streams, or retention ponds. The Town also accesses areas to complete tree trimming and vegetation management projects as I previously discussed.

It is the Town’s legal right to access and perform work within the easement. We will certainly do our best to communicate with residents should such an action be necessary. You can monitor our website for the latest DPW project information.

It’s important to note, although you have an easement on your property, the responsibility to perform general maintenance ultimately rests with the property owner. For example, if a tree falls on your property, it is your responsibility to clean it up even if it is in an easement. The Town will only clear trees that immediately impact roadways and other critical infrastructure.

Development of any kind is not allowed in an easement unless approval is granted by the appropriate boards and/or committees. Easements remain in perpetuity. However, if an easement is no longer needed, the Town may abandon it with Penfield Town Board approval.

Right of way

Right of way is a type of easement. It encompasses the section of land directly adjacent to a public roadway and allows the Town to use and maintain the space as needed.

In Penfield, the typical standard for the right of way distance is 60 feet (30 feet in either direction from the center line of a standard two-lane roadway). In some instances, the distance may vary based on the size of the roadway or the year it was constructed.

Within the right of way, we often conduct tree trimming and drainage work. Utility companies, such as those installing fiber in our community, access the right of way as well.

Forever wild?

When talking about land uses in our community, the term forever wild seems to be frequently referenced. The term implies that a piece of land can never be developed and will remain in its current state as undeveloped land forever.

While we all want to be good stewards of our lands, and that’s a vital part of what we do at the Town of Penfield, we do not have any land designated forever wild. This type of land designation in Penfield does not exist.

This is a really important reminder for our community. If you are told a piece of land in Penfield is forever wild when you are looking to purchase a home or land, that is simply not true.

As a Town, we have no legal authority to restrict the development of private land if it meets all requirements. 

Stay informed

Information on easement locations is available on our website using our GIS system. The system, which is maintained by our Planning Department, also allows you to review the location of streams and drainage areas. You can view static maps on our website, too.

Keep up with DPW and development projects in Penfield the following ways:
As always, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Debbie Drawe, Deputy Supervisor