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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?

A $500.00 deposit is required at the time the petition is delivered to the Public Works Department. The total cost of a vacation can exceed this amount if there are difficult issues to be resolved. The $500.00 is applied to any costs associated with process and if there is a balance at the end of the process it will be refunded.

For more information, contact:
Mason County
Public Works Department
100 W Public Works DR
Shelton WA. 98584
Phone:(360) 427 - 9670 ext. 450
Fax: (360) 427 - 7783