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Street and Road Vacation Procedures

This page provides a brief overview of road and street vacation procedures for cities and counties in Washington State, including statutory requirements and sample documents.

Overview

Vacation of city street rights-of-way is governed by Ch. 35.79 RCW, and vacation of county roads is governed by Ch. 36.87 RCW. A road or street vacation is the termination of the public interest in a right-of-way (opened or unopened); it extinguishes the easement for public travel that is represented by the right-of-way.  In the typical case, city and county governments hold an easement for public travel on lands designated or used as roads, streets, and alleys; they do not generally own the fee title to the property underlining the right-of-way.

While the city and county vacation statutes provide for similar procedures, there is one important difference. A petition by abutting property owners to initiate a city street vacation must be signed by owners of more than two-thirds of the property abutting the street to be vacated, while a petition to initiate a county road vacation need only be signed by owners of a majority of the frontage of the street to be vacated. Both city street and county road vacations may be initiated by the legislative body.

Vacation of rights-of-way abutting bodies of water is governed by RCW 36.87.130 for counties and RCW 35.79.035 for cities and generally requires a detailed analysis of an agency's projected needs for waterfront access.

For roads that were platted, but unopened or unused prior to 1905, RCW 36.87.090 should be reviewed to determine if those old roads might have been automatically vacated by operation of law. See also the article by Linda M. Youngs and Gail Gorud listed at the bottom of this page.

Examples of Local Road and Street Vacation Procedures

Below are examples of street and road vacation documents from cities and counties in Washington State, including ordinances, procedures, and application forms.

City Code Provisions

  • Bainbridge Island Municipal Code Ch. 12.34 - Vacation of Streets and Alleys
  • Blaine Municipal Code Ch. 12.16 - Street Vacations
  • Gig Harbor Municipal Code Ch. 12.14 - Vacation of Streets and Alleys
  • Issaquah Municipal Code Ch. 12.20 - Street Vacation Procedure
  • Kirkland Municipal Code Ch. 19.16 - Vacations of Streets and Access Easements

County Code Provisions

  • Clark County Code Ch. 12.28 - Road Vacation
  • Jefferson County Code Ch. 12.10 - Road Vacations
  • Okanogan County Code Ch. 12.90 - Vacation and Compensation for County Roads

Other Documents

Recommended Resources


Last Modified: July 15, 2016