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A franchise is a grant by King County, authorized by state law and King County Code to permit public and private utilities to use and occupy the right-of-way of County roads for the construction and maintenance of waterworks; gas pipes; telephone, telegraph and electric lines; sewer lines; cable television lines; petroleum product pipelines; and other such public and private utilities. Such rights may be granted for specific purposes for a limited time, not to exceed 50 years. Said specific purposes shall be secondary and subordinate to the primary use of the right-of-way as a public thoroughfare, and shall be subject to preemption of the right-of-way for such primary use.


Applicants for franchises for sewer and water pipeline systems shall first comply with King County Code Chapter 13 relating to comprehensive plans. Compliance includes submission of the plan and a resolution adopted by governing the sewer and/or water the same, to the Utility Technical Review Committee (UTRC) Chair, King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP), 201 S. Jackson St., Fifth Floor, Seattle, WA 98104. Once reviewed by the UTRC, the plan is subject to approval by the King County Council upon a finding that said plan is consistent with the King County Comprehensive Plan. If there are any questions regarding compliance with KCC 13.24, contact the Chair of the UTRC at 206-205-0817.

All other applicants are exempt from Comprehensive Plan requirements.

The application shall be addressed to the Clerk of the King County Council, King County Courthouse, Room 1200, 516 Third Ave., Seattle, WA 98104. The following items shall be contained in the application as specified in King County Code:

  • A letter stating the name and address of the corporation or organization requesting the franchise and the reason for the application. Any unusual circumstances should be mentioned, and brief statements paraphrased or extracted from the comprehensive plan should be included so that those unfamiliar with the subject may quickly gain background and perspective on the nature of the application and the applicant.
  • A certified check for all applicable fees, made payable to the King County Treasury, to cover administrative costs.
  • A metes and bounds legal description of the proposed franchise area, legal subdivision, or combination thereof on a computer disk, if available. Documents should be set in 12-point Times New Roman.
  • One copy of a map of sufficient scale and detail to depict the legal description complete with title block showing name, date, scale, legend, etc.
  • One copy of a vicinity map on letter- or legal-sized paper, at a scale of two inches per mile or less, showing the area surrounding the proposed franchise which may be served by other franchises.
    • NOTE: If the applicant holds any other franchises in the vicinity, the maps should show the boundaries of these in relation to the proposed franchise area.

Franchises may require State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) review.

The application is reviewed by the Real Estate Services Section, the Utility Technical Review Committee, and the Department of Transportation. Adjustments are made as required or by negotiation during the course of these reviews.

Upon completion of preliminary review, the application is submitted with a recommendation by the King County Executive to the King County Council. Upon approval by the Council, a franchise will be granted for a term specified by the Council and subject to the conditions in the agreement. The franchise agreement must be accepted and signed by an authorized officer of the Grantee within thirty days. Following the Council's approval, three original copies will be distributed to the Council records, the Grantee, and the Real Estate Services Section.

Before any construction is started under an approved franchise, a Right-of-Way Construction Permit must be obtained from Real Estate Services, 500 Fourth Ave., Suite 830, Mailstop ADM-ES-0830, Seattle, WA 98104. The permit described and located the proposed construction. One set of plans in PDF format and specifications at working scale should be submitted with the permit application, along with an "ON, From, TO" description of the portions of the project in the public right-of-way. A performance bond is required as determined by the Department of Transportation, and the entire project is subject to inspection and approval by the checklist and threshold determination is required for major actions as found in Washington Administrative Code .

Utility franchise timeline

Utility Franchise Process Timeline

Click to enlarge

  1. Clerk of the Council transmits franchise application to Real Estate Services (RES)
  2. RES reviews the legal description, coordinates review by the Utilities Technical Review Committee (UTRC) and the Department of Transportation, prepares the ordinance authorizing the franchise, and transmits the required documents to the King County Executive and Council
  3. Clerk of the Council advertises the public hearing
  4. County Council holds a public hearing on the ordinance and votes to approve, approve with amendment(s), or deny the ordinance
  5. If approved, County Executive will execute the franchise agreement on behalf of King County
  6. Grantee accepts and signs the franchise agreement within 30 days of Council approval
  7. RES, Recorder, and Grantee receive and file copies of the franchise agreement
  8. RES may issue right-of-way construction permits to the Grantee, subject to environmental policy, Sensitive Areas Ordinance, and other applicable ordinances


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