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What is an Road Improvement District (R.I.D.)?

The Road Improvement District (R.I.D.) is a method established in 1951 by the State Legislature for improving roads and streets. It is modeled after the L.I.D. (Local Improvement District) law which has been used by the cites for street, water, and sewer improvements for years. The R.I.D. statutes (RCW 36.88) provide for improvements paid by an assessment on the lots, tracts, or parcels specially benefited by the improvement.

Why Form an R.I.D?

R.I.D.s can be used by any county for the improvement of a county road, bridge, or road drainage facility. Other road related improvements (such as street lighting) may also be made under the R.I.D. laws.

The R.I.D. Process

The R.I.D may be initiated by petition of the property owners of the area specially benefited by the roads proposed for improvement. The petition must be signed by the owners of a majority of the acreage within the proposed R.I.D. boundaries, and by the owners of a majority of the front footage measured along both sides of all the roads proposed for improvement.Each ownership has only one signature associated with it (e.g., husband and wife or partners that own the property jointly will count as one signature). This signature carries the equivalent of a "YES" vote for that lot's acreage and front footage. The Board of County Commissioners must hold a Creation Hearing before the R.I.D. may be created. Notice of the hearing must be published at least twice in the Peninsula Daily News, and must be mailed to each property owner at least 15 days prior to the hearing. Signatures may be added to (or withdrawn from) the petition at anytime prior to 5:00 p.m. the day before the hearing. This hearing provides the property owners (and others) an opportunity to voice their support or opposition to the district. It is only if the hearing results in the creation of an R.I.D., that the County may proceed with the improvement. Depending upon the complexity of the project, the county may conduct a preliminary review and cost estimate of the work required. This information will be shared with the R.I.D. members in a follow-up meeting. It is the intent of this meeting to give the R.I.D. members a final opportunity to commit or abandon the project in light of the estimated financial obligation that the RID will incur. Please note that the project cost estimate is simply that- an estimate that indicates only the potential magnitude of the financial commitment and not actual costs. If the project is abandoned, the RID will be billed for all preliminary work done by the county. If the project moves forward, these preliminary costs will be factored into the final assessment. If considerable design work is necessary, construction may be delayed for a season to allow time for the surveys and engineering. Only after all the project costs are known can final assessment be determined. A third hearing will be held, with notification similar to the preliminary hearing, at which the Board will determine the final assessments and certify these to the Treasurer for collection.

How are the boundaries of an R.I.D. determined?

As nearly as possible, each R.I.D. shall include all property specially benefited by the proposed improvement. This includes ownerships served by easements from the improved roads unless the ownership has demonstrated use of another easement as principal access. However, ownerships abutting the improved roads will be considered as specially benefited even if served by another easement. Adjustments in the R.I.D. boundary may be made if the ownership has been previously assessed for a separate R.I.D., or if the ownership can demonstrate that a portion or all of the parcel does not receive benefit form the improvement. An example of the latter might be a determination in writing from some responsible authority that the area in question is not buildable.

How is Right of Way acquired?

All of the land (minimum required 60 feet, 30 feet each side of centerline of the road) necessary for right-of-way or other purposes in the construction or improvement of any road may be acquired by the County either by gift, purchase, or by condemnation. After the R.I.D. is created and a design is approved, suitable quit claim deeds are mailed to each parcel owner along the improvement. The property owners are under no obligation to donate the right of way. However, all costs involved in acquiring the property are charged to the R.I.D. Generally, we send you an estimate of the property value with the quit claim deeds if you do not want to donate the land. If you choose to be paid, our right-of-way agent will draw up all the necessary paperwork. It is entirely proper to withhold donation of right of way if you have a specific concern, such as compensation for damages to landscaping, or relocation or rebuilding of a fence. These matters can be discussed with the County right-of-way agent and a right-of-way agreement will be signed defining the conditions of the right-of-way transfer. After the deed is recorded, the County will then fulfill its obligations to the owner. If an agreement cannot be reached with a particular owner and it is necessary to acquire the right of way to proceed with the improvement, the County may institute condemnation proceedings against the owner. The condemnation costs are also borne by the district.

How are costs determined?

The cost estimate usually consists of three components: engineering, construction, and right-of-way acquisition. The engineering and construction cost estimate is prepared by the Engineering Department after a field examination. The right-of-way acquisition costs depend on whether all of the right of way is donated by the owners, or if it must be purchased. If all agree to donate, this cost is zero. However, if any have not agreed, the cost will be based on negotiated settlements or condemnations for any and all parcels. By law, the County may assess the district for the purpose of paying all or any part of the cost of the improvement, including cost overruns on the original design. However, the design and/or scope of the project may not be changed in a way that increases the cost more than 10% over that stated in the original notice without a second notice and hearing. Though counties may participate in the cost of an R.I.D. on an existing county road, it is not required. Mason County does not include any R.I.D. funds in the current 6 year program.

How are costs divided?

The Board shall use the most practical and equitable method of assessment, given the prevailing conditions. The typical methods are: 1) the lot method, in which each lot (or equivalent) pays an equal share; 2) the area method, in which costs are allocated in proportion to the area of each property; 3) the front footage, in which proportional costs are based on the lineal front footage of the parcels abutting the improvement; and / or 4) a combination, which could include a combination of any or all of the aforementioned processes.

The Engineering Department recommends the lot method in cases where the majority of the ownerships are of nearly equal size, the area method when the ownerships are of varying sizes, and the lot/area method when some larger parcels occur with generally uniform small parcels. At the Creation Hearing, suggestions from property owners are encouraged as to which method is most equitable. The Board then determines the actual method of assessment at this hearing. The actual assessment is based on the lots in existence at the time of the final hearing (not the Creation Hearing).

How is an assessment paid? Will it increase my taxes?

The Board determines the number of years permitted for payment of the assessment (usually 5 to 10 years). The assessment may be paid in full within 30 days without interest, or it may be paid over the determined period at an interest rate set by the Board. Annual payments are billed and paid along with property taxes but do not increase the property taxes themselves. However, if the road improvement increases the selling price of nearby property, assessed valuations will rise since they are based on representative sales. In this way an R.I.D. could indirectly cause property taxes to increase. If right of way is deeded to the County, the owner should verify that the area is subtracted from his taxable acreage. If this decrease in area results in a decreased assessed valuation, then property taxes will also decrease accordingly. (However, this does not reduce the R.I.D. assessments.)

It is important to wait until you receive the Treasurer's notice of the actual amount of your assessment before making any payments. The final hearing notice will include a preliminary amount, but this may be adjusted at the hearing; it is not a bill. Simple interest is computed each year on the unpaid balance of the assessment.

Lien

The R I D assessment becomes a lien against the property and is second only to general property taxes. The lien is effective once the County Treasurer receives the certified final assessment roll. Discussion of the assessment with the current lending institution or the lending institution of a prospective buyer is advised should the property be sold.

What about Private Roads?

A private road may be improved under the R.I.D. statutes only by incorporating the road into the county road system. In the process, the road must be brought up to County standards, with a 60 foot right of way, and a 24 foot paved surface. On private roads, the law requires all R.I.D. costs to be borne by the property owners. The road will be established as a county road when the R.I.D. is created, or as soon after as practical. (Existing County roads can be improved even if they don't meet current standards, but all new roads must be built to standards before they will be included in the road system.)

County Involvement in R.I.D.s

At the direction of the Board of Mason County Commissioners, the Public Works Department handles R.I.D. processing, as well as design and administration of most of the improvements. An "R.I.D. Coordinator" acts as a contact person to assist the public. The County must maintain a neutral position on all R.I.D.s until they are formed. Thus, it cannot solicit nor inhibit their formation. The R.I.D. Coordinator will act as impartially as possible in these matters. It is important to understand that the County can be of assistance in preparing the petition, but the mailings and legwork involved in formation must be done primarily by the petitioners. The R.I.D. Coordinator will assist you in preparing the petition and the necessary maps and exhibits for R.I.D. formation, and will relay relevant information to and from other departments as needed. Any questions should be directed to the R.I.D. Coordinator.

If you have questions contact:

Mason County
Public Works Department
100 W Public Works DR
Shelton WA. 98584
Phone: (360) 427 - 9670 ext 450
Fax: (360) 427 - 8425