Right-of-Way & Easement Vacations
More Questions? Contact the Zoning Division at 343-7942
What do I need to apply?
To vacate a street or alley right-of-way, BLM or section line easement, landscape easement, public use easement, slope and/or drainage easement requires:
- Original Application for Right-of-Way and Easement Vacation with original signatures.
- 45 copies of the completed application.
- 45 copies of a map illustrating the area to be vacated. In addition to showing the area to be vacated, the map must show the outer boundary of the property receiving the benefit of the dedication, and the location of all known public improvements (utilities, sidewalks, etc.) within the area being vacated.
- 45 copies of a written statement citing the reasons in support of the vacation. The burden of proof that the area to be vacated is excess to public need lies with petitioner.
- The vacation application fee.
- Completed Watershed sign-off form.
The vacation process allows for parallel processing of a preliminary plat application to complete the vacation. The parallel processing may be an advantage to speed up finishing the vacation procedure. To find out more about a preliminary plat application see the Self Help on Subdivisions.
To vacate a public utility easement, telecommunications & electric easement, sanitary sewer and/or water easement, or storm drain easement:
- Original Planning Department application with original signatures.
- 35 copies of completed application.
- 35 copies of the recorded document establishing the easement. (May be the plat of record or a written easement document)
- 35 copies of a map illustrating the area to be vacated and the map must show the outer boundary of the property where the easement is located. The map must also show the location of any installed utilities.
- 35 copies of a written statement, often called a letter of non-objection, approving the vacation from each public utility authorized to use the easement.
- 35 copies of a current as-built survey of the property that shows the dimension of the area to be vacated if a structure encroaches into the easement. The as-built survey must show all improvements on the lot as well as all the easements that impact the lot and the location of any installed utilities.
- The application fee.
- Completed Watershed sign-off form.
Do I need a professional to represent me?
Although it is possible to prepare a vacation application without professional help it may not be always cost effective unless you are a surveyor or civil engineer. A final plat must be done which is stamped by a licensed surveyor to complete the subdivision process and often engineering expertise is required in subdivision design. If you decide you need professional help, petitioners most often select a private planner, surveyor, or civil engineer to advise and/or represent them. Often the vacation application and preliminary plat application are done at the same time.
Vacations of utility easements can often be done without professional help if you are willing to do the work of coordinating with each utility.
How long will it take?
The Planning Department operates a first come first served system for scheduling public hearings. The minimum amount of time for a vacation acceptance to the public hearing is about 45 days. However, if there are more preliminary plats and vacations than the Platting Board can hear in one meeting, the Planning Department then fills each scheduled meeting in order. If the Platting Board's docket is filled for many meetings, the amount of time between turning in a vacation and its public hearing depends on the number of preliminary plats and vacations in line ahead of it.
If the right-of-way vacation is approved by the Platting Board the amount of time it takes to complete the action is mostly up to you. If the Platting Board did not consider a preliminary plat with the vacation, a preliminary plat application must be prepared and approved. Simultaneous approval means you can move on to the final plat.
What is the likelihood that my right-of-way vacation will be approved?
Right-of-ways are presumed to be needed by the public unless there is clear evidence it is excess. You must prove to the Platting Board that the right-of-way is excess to the public need.
Usual points in favor of vacating right-of-way are:
- No land will be land locked or be denied access to right-of-way or utilities.
- The right-of-way is not on a short or long range street plan.
- Any remainder portion of the right-of-way is usable and meets the current standard for right-of-way.
- The Municipality of Anchorage has authority over the right-of-way
The approval will have a condition to require the filing of a final plat. In addition, vacations of a BLM or section line easements will require the approval of the State of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT/PF).
What happens before the public hearing?
- To get ready for the public hearing the Planning Department does the following:
- Gives you one or more placards to post on the property. The placards must be posted at least 21 days before the public hearing.
- Assigns a case number to the vacation for tracking and reference purposes.
- Sends a copy of your vacation to a number of public agencies and the local Community Council for comment. The primary public agencies are Public Works and the public utilities. The Community Councils often discuss Platting Board matters at their monthly meetings. You may wish to contact the council for the scheduled time and location and then attend the meeting.
- Mails a "Notice of Public Hearing" to each of your neighbors within a minimum of 500 feet of your right-of-way vacation.
- The planner as well as other public agency staff assigned to your vacation will visit the property and may take photographs.
- A report is written and published to advise the Platting Board of the Planning Department's findings and recommendation. The report is available on the Friday before the hearing or at the public hearing. It is also posted on the Municipal website at Zoning and Platting Cases Online Notification System.
What happens at the public hearing?
The public hearings are held in the Assembly Chambers at Loussac Library. The Platting Board follows a published agenda. The hearing of each vacation or preliminary plat generally follows these steps:
- The chair will introduce the case and explain the procedure to be followed. The vacation case number and the name of the applicant are read into the record.
- The chair will give the Planning Department 10 minutes to briefly outline the case.
- You or your representative will then have 10 minutes for his/her presentation. The board members may direct questions to you through the chair. You may reserve a portion of your time for rebuttal.
- The chair opens the hearing for public testimony. Each individual may testify for no more than three minutes and may be questioned by the board, through the chair, at anytime during such presentation. A person representing a group such as a Community Council is allowed 5 minutes to testify.
- The chair closes the hearing to public testimony.
- The applicant has the right of rebuttal using the time reserved from the presentation.
- The chair will ask for a positive motion from the board.
- The chair and the board discuss the motion and facts in support of or in opposition to the vacation.
- The chair calls for roll call vote on the motion. No matter how many Board members are present it takes 5 yes votes to approve a vacation.
- The chair will advise the applicant of the board's action, including findings of fact and conclusions of law, and of the applicable appeal rights.
What if I have a utility easement to vacate?
Utility easement vacations follow an entirely administrative process. No public hearing is required and much of the approval process is done prior to the Planning Department accepting the application. If the utilities have agreed to the vacation, the Platting Officer will prepare the final documents need to complete the vacation process. The final document must be filed with the Alaska State District Recorder.
What do I do if my right-of-way vacation is approved?
To complete the vacation process a final plat reflecting the vacated area must be filed with the Alaska State District Recorder within the time allowed by the Platting Board. All final plats must be preceded by an approved preliminary plat. If the preliminary plat was approved by the Platting Board with the vacation you may proceed with preparation of the final plat. If not, a preliminary plat application must be prepared and accepted by the Planning Department. A short plat, in some vacations, may be the preliminary plat.
Within the vacation and preliminary plat approval time period all conditions placed on the approvals must be satisfied. The final plat Mylar must be drawn complete with survey computations. If a subdivision agreement is required it must be made ready for recording.
Three paper copies of final plat must be delivered to Planning Department with the survey data and documentation showing that all the conditions of approval have been met. The Municipal Surveyor will check the lot configurations and final computations for accuracy. When this review is complete, the Municipal Surveyor's Office will call the either the property owner or his/her representative asking for the Mylar copy of the final plat.
Signatures of property owners and beneficial interests as shown on the certificate to plat must be on the Mylar and properly notarized. A final check of the Mylar copy of the plat is made by the Municipal Surveyor and then returned to the Planning Department.
The current year real estates taxes must be paid, even if the taxes are not yet due. Municipal signatures from the Treasurer, Clerk, Platting Officer, Planning Department Director and Chair of the Platting Board are obtained on the Mylar copy. Planning Department staff will call for an update on the certificate to plat (land title report) to verify that all owners and beneficiaries have signed the Mylar copy of the final plat.
When all agencies are satisfied the final plat is complete it will be taken by the Planning Department to the District Recorder for filing.
What do I do if my right-of-way vacation is denied?
There are 3 options available to you if your vacation is denied:
- Stop consideration of the right-of-way vacation.
- Prepare a new vacation application that resolves the issues that caused the Platting Board to reject the previous vacation and reapply.
- File a notice of appeal with the Municipal Clerk's office to have the Platting Board's action reviewed by the Board of Adjustment. The Board of Adjustment process is a strict legal review with a fairly rigid legal procedure. The Municipal Assembly is the Board of Adjustment, but the Assembly members may not be contacted about the appeal except during the actual hearing. You may wish to consult an attorney before filing an appeal.
What is the municipal vacation policy?
The right-of-way vacation law requires that before vacating a public right-of-way it must be proven that the right-of-way is absolutely not needed by the municipality at any time in the future. To help guide the decision on whether to vacate or not, the Planning Department created a policy document that gives notice to all on how vacations will be evaluated.
The policy is as follows:
In considering any vacation of public rights-of-way, dedication, section line easement, BLM easement, or public use easement, the Municipality uses the following to guide the Planning Department recommendation to the Platting Board:
- The statement by the applicant alleging the right-of-way is surplus to the current and future needs of the public and the reasons for determining the right-of-way is surplus.
- The Municipality will not entertain any vacation of right-of-way on a street on the Official Streets and Highways Plan (OS&HP) unless it can be shown without a doubt that the right-of-way is clearly in excess of all future needs for right-of-way.
- Any right-of-way lying on the half-mile grid will not be considered for vacation unless it can without a doubt be shown that the right-of-way is clearly in excess of all future needs for right-of-way.
- Any right-of-way lying on the quarter mile grid will not be considered for vacation unless it can without a doubt be shown that the right-of-way is clearly in excess of all future needs for right-of-way.
- In all cases it must be proven that the remaining property in the area can be adequately served and the traffic circulation is enhances by the vacation of right-of-way.
- The Municipality will consider realignment of right-of-way by vacation and rededication where it can be clearly shown the right-of-way realignment will enhance traffic circulation and will provide for the movement of traffic with generally the same beginning and ending points as the original right-of-way.
Where can I find the actual laws regarding right-of-way vacations?
The text of the Municipality Code of Ordinances and the Code of Regulations is available at the Municipal libraries, the Planning Department, and on the Internet at municode.
For vacations review the following:
- Vacation procedures and standards AMC 21.15.130
- Preliminary plat procedures and standards AMC 21.15.100; 21.15.110; 21.15.115
- Final plat procedures and standards AMC 21.15.120
- Short plat procedures AMC 21.15.125
What is...? (terminology)
21.15.130 Approval of vacations.
Authority. The platting authority shall consider the merits of each vacation request, and in all cases the platting authority shall deem the area being vacated to be of value to the municipality unless proven otherwise. The burden of proof shall lie entirely with the petitioner
A cut-off date? The Planning Department establishes an annual schedule for the Platting Board public hearings which includes enough time between accepting a vacation application and the public hearing to do the legal notice to neighbors and solicit information from government agencies and citizens on the subdivision. The cut-off date is the starting point and the last day a vacation can be accepted for a specific hearing. (Top)
A final plat? A final plat is a drawing done by a licensed surveyor on Mylar film that accurately depicts the location of all property lines. The final plat is the document filed with the State of Alaska District Recorder before lots may be sold. The term Mylar and final plat refer to the same document. (Top)
The Platting Authority? The Platting Authority is which ever board, commission or staff that is granted the power to approve new subdivisions. Most often it is the Platting Board, followed the Platting Officer, and sometimes the Planning and Zoning Commission. (Top)
The Platting Board? The Platting Board is made up of 9 citizens appointed by the Mayor to hear, examine the proposed subdivisions and the law, and decide on whether to grant or deny a preliminary plat. The appointed Board members are not municipal employees. The Board meets on the 1st Wednesday of each month. (Top)
The Platting Officer? The Planning Department assigns the duties to administer the subdivision regulations and the process of subdividing to a staff member. That staff member is designated as the Platting Officer. (Top)
A preliminary plat? A preliminary plat is a drawing usually done by a surveyor of the proposed design for a new subdivision. (Top)
A short plat? Certain minor subdivisions may be approved by the Platting Officer through an administrative procedure rather than a public hearing process.
A vacation? When a street right-of-way or an easement is removed from a property it is called a vacation. (Top)