WHAT IS A ROAD VACATION?
A road vacation is a process governed by state law (RCW 36.87) in which property owners can have the public's interest in road rights of way removed. This can result in the vacated road right of way becoming part of the abutting owners’ property.
Road vacation doesn’t necessarily remove all encumbrances from the area vacated. What is given up in the vacation process is only the right of the general public to use the vacated road or right-of-way. There may be rights and interests of private individuals and utility companies that still exist. These private individuals typically abut the road right of way and either historically have used the right of way for access or, if located in a plat, may need to in the future. Similarly, if utilities are located in the right of way, easements will be reserved so they may stay.
HOW ARE VACATIONS STARTED
A vacation can be started by petitioning the Board of County Commissioners using a petition form available from the Public Works Right of Way Section. The petition is prepared and returned to the Public Works Department. The owners of the majority of the frontage on the right of way to be vacated must sign the petition. However it is recommended to have everyone who is served by the right of way sign the petition to show that they concur with the vacation.
A vacation can also be initiated by the Board of County Commissioners.
WHO PETITIONS FOR A VACATION?
Generally the person who wants the right of way abutting their property vacated will be the principal petitioner. Any other neighbors who want the same right of way abutting their property vacated under the same petition will sign the petition as co-petitioners.
WHAT IS VACATION BY OPERATION OF LAW?
A vacation by operation of law refers to platted rights-of-way that were made available for opening prior to March 12, 1904, but were not opened within five years and still remain unopened. This “non-use” resulted in an automatic vacation. Although a road may have been vacated by operation of law, the Mason County Board of Commissioners will process a formal vacation by petition. This provides the petitioner with documentation of the vacation, makes a public record of it and removes any related clouds on the title.
MAY I BUILD IN A VACATED RIGHT OF WAY OR USE IT TO ADJUST BUILDING SETBACKS?
Since private access easements may still exist in vacated rights of way, you may not be allowed to build on it without taking additional steps to address these rights. Also, existing utilities may prevent building. Consult with the Building Division of the Community Development Department for information on building setbacks.
WHO DECIDES ROAD VACATIONS?
The Board of County Commissioners decides if a road right of way will be vacated. They are responsible for insuring that a right of way vacation is not harmful to the public interest. The Board relies on the County’s Hearing Examiner to hold the required public hearing and to make a recommendation to the Board. The Hearing Examiner receives advice from the County Engineer and hears testimony at the public hearing.
HOW LONG DOES A VACATION TAKE?
It usually takes 6 to 10 weeks before the public hearing can be set. This can be done only after the petition is returned, with the proper signatures, to the Public Works Department for processing. The time and date of the hearing must be posted on the area to be vacated and it also must be published in the public notice section of the Shelton-Mason County Journal.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?Administration Fee:
The Administrative fee for each petition is one thousand ($1,000). The fee is to accompany the petition at time it is turned into the Public Works Department.
The County also requires a compensation rate for the vacation of roads or portions thereof with the classification of the following:
- Class A. All roads for which the right of way is an easement; Compensation: fifty percent (50%) of appraised value.
- Class B. All roads for which the right of way is owned in fee simple and for which the county paid the full fair market value of the fee simple estate. Compensation: One hundred percent (100%) of the appraised value
- Class C. All roads that meet RCW 36.87.090 requirements. No compensation other than the Administrative fee.
Appraised value for Class A and B is the current assessed value determined by the County Assessor on behalf of the County or such other appraiser as deemed appropriate by the County Commissioners or County Engineer to determine the value, if any, of the county’s right of way that is requested to be vacated. The appraisal shall be prepared prior to the public hearing and shall be cited in the County Engineer's report.
For more information, contact:
Public Works Department
100 W Public Works DR
Shelton WA. 98584
Phone:(360) 427 - 9670 ext. 450
Fax: (360) 427 - 7783