Road Services - Road vacations
What is a road vacation?
A road vacation is an ordinance action taken by the King County Council whereby the public interest in a road right-of-way is removed. King County holds an easement on right of way for public travel on most streets and alleys outside of incorporated areas of the County. This interest may be terminated by the County ordinance if the easement is considered useless to the County's needs and deemed beneficial by the return of the unused area to the public tax tolls. RCW 36.87 and King County Code 14.40 govern the vacation of rights-of-way in King County.
Rights-of-way dedicated in plats filed prior to March 13, 1904 do not meet King County criteria for road vacation. These particular rights-of-way are governed by the laws of 1889-1890. You are encouraged to contact an attorney regarding the filing of a Quiet Title action to obtain such rights-of-way.
Generally, vacation of right-of-way abutting bodies of water is prohibited by RCW 36.87.130.
How to initiate a road vacation
The owner(s) of property abutting a street or alley may initiate a vacation by filing a petition with the Clerk of the King County Council. The petition must provide all specified data, a stated reason(s) for the request, and furnish a sketch or map of the proposed vacation.
The length of time to process a street or alley vacation depends largely on the number of issues needing to be resolved. A typical street or alley vacation will take about nine months to a year. This time is required for the County to adequately review the public's interest in the property before it is vacated to private parties.
After the petition is filed with the Clerk of the King County Council, it is referred to the County Road Engineer in the Department of the Transportation for recommendation. A Road Vacation Report Form, including the legal description and a map is prepared and distributed to the various County agencies soliciting their comments on the proposed road vacation. At the same time notice is given to the appropriate utilities in the vicinity of the proposed vacation. When deemed necessary, the County may require the property owner to provide an easement for the protection of existing or future utilities within the right of way. Additional organizations having specific interest in public rights-of-way may be asked to comment on the proposed vacation. At the conclusion of the investigation, the County Road Engineer will make a recommendation to the County Council on the proposed road vacation.
In the event that the County Road Engineer concludes the public would not benefit by the approval of the petition, the petition will be denied. A "Notice of Denial" will be sent to the primary petitioner with the explanation for the denial. The petitioner has the right to file a written appeal with the Clerk of the County Council on this decision. The appeal must state the specific reasons for why the vacation should be granted.
A street or alley vacation converts the public's right-of-way to the private use and ownership of abutting land owners (one on each side of the street, for example). Each Property owner, who is party to the petition, usually receives the portion of vacated right-of-way abutting their property (typically, 1/2 of the vacated right-of-way width). A vacation simply terminates the County's authority over a parcel, it does not distribute property. This occurs automatically, no matter who petitions for a vacation or who pays the vacation costs for the vacated road segment. Vacated property always returns to its historical origin. Some minor exceptions to property award will be discussed with you, if applicable.
The County Council generally assigns the responsibility for holding the public hearing for the proposed vacation to the King County Hearing Examiner. The Examiner reviews the petition, the County Road Engineer's recommendation, and takes testimony during the hearing. Petitioners and interested parties should attend this meeting. The Examiner provides a recommendation to the County Council after the hearing. The County Council takes action based on the recommendations of the Examiner.
A $100 non-refundable cash deposit is required to defray a portion of the administrative and investigation cost. This deposit is payable at the time of the filing of the petition for vacation with the Clerk of the County Council.
In general, the minimum compensation required for a road vacation will be 50% of full appraised value. Any road that was previously maintained by the County will require compensation at 75% of full appraised value. Any right-of-way which was purchased by the County will remand compensation at 100% of full appraised value. The only acknowledged exceptions to these compensation requirements are cases where the requesting petitioner is the same person who gave the county the right-of- way or the vacation is processed for a government agency. The amount of the compensation will be determined by the Department of Transportation. In some cases, the County will allow an exchange of equal property in lieu of appraised value. Instead of monetary payment, the property owner may be asked to substitute other street areas or fulfill other conditions. Compensation payment must be made prior to vacation by the County Council.
Owners of property abutting the street or alley approved for vacation are responsible for deciding how the administrative costs of the vacation will be apportioned. If you have neighbors with whom you want to share the costs, this should be negotiated and agreed to prior to the filing of the petition.
All checks are to be made payable to the King County Finance. The above fees may be subject to change at any time by Ordinance adopted by the King County Council.
Public hearing and notice
A notice of the public hearing on the vacation will be transmitted to all parties of record. The Clerk of the Council publishes the hearing notice in the County designated newspaper and requires the notice to be posted at or near the area to be vacated at a minimum of 20 days in advance of the hearing. Information brochures from the Examiners office are generally provided prior to the hearing explaining the hearing procedures.
Where to file
To file the petition and commence the action, please return the completed petition, deposit and sketch or map of the proposed vacation to:
Clerk of the King County Council
King County Courthouse
516 Third Avenue, Room 1200
Seattle, WA 98104
Illegible or incomplete petitions will be returned to the petitioners without processing.
You can download the petition in several formats:
The petition must be accompanied with the following:
- A letter address to the King County Council stating the reason for the request;
- A map showing the proposed vacation area; and
- A check in the amount of $100.00 made payable to King County Finance.
For more information
For a copy of the brochure which this page is based on, a petition form, or for more information and assistance contact the Road Services Division:
Road Services Division
Engineering Services Section
201 South Jackson Street
Seattle, WA 98104-3856
Information from the Road Services Division's website is available to people with disabilities in alternate formats upon request by calling 206-263-6482 or 711 for the TTY relay service.
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