A road or right-of-way vacation is governed by R.C.W. 36.87 and Chapter 9.04 of the Clallam County Code. Vacation is a process where landowners can have the public's interest in roads or right of ways removed. The rights and interests of private individuals may still encumber the road or right of way that is vacated. These private individuals are those who typically abut the road or right of way that is vacated, who have historically used these roads for access, or who own land in the same plat. Utility easements may also still encumber the areas vacated. What is given up is only the right of the general public to use the vacated road or right of way.
How to begin a road vacation
A road vacation process is instituted by petitioning the Board of County Commissioners to authorize a resolution to do so. The County's Right-of-Way Agent will prepare the petition, identifying the legal description of the area you want vacated. Recent changes to R.C.W. 36.87 make it necessary to have the petition be signed by "the owners of the majority of the frontage of any County road" being vacated. However, it is recommended that you obtain signatures from all parties who are serviced by the road or right of way to show that they are in concurrence with your request.
Right of Way defined as "Class C" in Clallam County Code Chapter 9.04 means any right of way where a public interest in that right of way was extinguished (or vacated) automatically by operation of law. It is generally a right of way dedicated in a plat which was recorded prior to March 12, 1904, and which remained unopened for five years after authority was granted for opening them in accordance with Section 32, Ch. 19, F. 603, Laws of 1889-1890. This form of vacation is generally governed by R.C.W. 36.87.090. As such, the County does not offer any procedure, formal or informal, that would recognize or formalize this automatic extinguishment of the public's interest in a Class C right of way.
Who asks for a vacation?
Generally, the person who wants that portion of road or right of way which abuts his/her property to be vacated will be the "Principal Petitioner". Additional property owners along that same road or right of way may want the vacation of such portions which abut their own properties. Any such individuals may be included in the same vacation petition with the Principal Petitioner, and would join as "Co-Petitioners".
Who decides if the road is to be vacated?
The Clallam County Board of Commissioners is empowered with deciding if a road or right of way will be vacated. The Commissioners rely on a recommendation from the County Engineer and also on testimony presented at the public hearing which must be held before a road can be vacated. The Commissioners are responsible for protecting the general public's interest, and the approval of a vacation is at their discretion. A favorable recommendation to them from the County Engineer, and the lack of any opposition to the vacation being presented at the hearing, are helpful factors which are given consideration when making this decision.
When "Class C" right of way has been vacated by operation of law, or statute, it is generally governed by R.C.W. 36.87.090 and there is nothing further that needs to be done, as this vacation occurred at the State level over 100 years ago (in 1904).
How long does a vacation take?
From the time a properly signed petition is submitted to the Right-of-Way Agent with the application fee, it usually takes six to eight weeks before a public hearing is scheduled. During that time, County personnel verify the validity of the signers of the petition, post the area to be vacated with the time and date of the public hearing, and arrange for publication of a notice for public hearing in the official County newspaper. Also, the County Engineer reviews the application in order to provide his recommendation to the Board of Commissioners.
How much does it cost?
The basic petitioning fee is $800.00. The County can (and most likely will) require payment of the fair market value of the land, depending upon how the County acquired the road or right of way. This reimbursement formula is outlined in County Code Chapter 9.04. The County can also recover additional expenditures if there are any improvements or merchantable timber on the area to be vacated. The County may also require payment for any additional incidental costs or may require the petitioner to supply survey maps or data.
For more information, contact:
Real Estate Services
Clallam County Public Works Department - Road Division
223 East Fourth Street, Suite 6
Port Angeles, WA 98362-3098