Quit claim/vacation process
Looking for some information:
Municipal owned property has two County right of way easements. Easement #1 is completely surrounded by the municipality's property and Easement #2 is surround on 3 side by the municipality's property, with the 4th side being owned by the State. The County finally wising up to the situation, tells the municipality they intent to vacate the County right of way and quit claim the easement to the municipality.
The County has been maintaining the road (right of way) for 90 years (April 14th to be exact). Initially ther ROW was for access across the original land baron property to the original State Highway (easement #1), in the '30s a municipality bought the land the ROW crossed, in the '50s the State condemned land east of the original State Highway and quit claimed their ROW in the original State Highway to the County. The State also has an off ramp to this road.
This is set off because the municipality wants to construct a $180mil elevated people mover over Easement #2 and were inquiring about encroachment permits and Joint Use Maintenance Agreements.
County contacted consultant about the vacation, who reached out to me, and I reached out to municipality's legal department. The legal department believes the municipality will be acquiring land and have to provide compensation. I explained to legal the municipality would not be acquiring land, but the County would be giving up their right to that portion of the land.
So for I have come to the following conclusions/observations
-that street vacation is legislative in process and not subject to judicial review, unless fraud.
-vacation can be considered a taking and compensation could be required. The municipality would benefit and be burdened at the same time
-quit claim deed has no acceptance or input, except from the party giving up their right
-by vacating & quit claiming the right of way, the utilities located within the original right of way would require their own easement
-State is claiming a portion of Easement #2 (per Section 83 of California Streets and Highways code), which states they will own the road if its "within the boundaries of the state highway"
What I am looking for help on the following
+could municipality property owned for a money making enterprise be viewed as private property? (I have seen this stated by appellants, but never decided)
+even if the County vacated the street, would an easement still exist because of use and necessity? (leads into next question)
+since all adjoiners are government entities, could one state they have acquired a prescriptive right against another? (State would have an off ramp to private property?)
I am instructing the municipality to set up mediation will the State and County, because from everything I see, the municipality is in the worst situation if the County vacates/quit claim the road unilaterally.
If the County still has jurisdiction over the public right of way (it is still in unincorporated territory, right?), a public hearing to determine if cause exists to vacate the public interest in access will be held. That entails a finding that the necessity of the public to access the easement - present or prospective - no longer exists. Testimony from affected landowners will be heard - and a synopsis of prior inquiries should be part of the staff report. Upon recordation of the Board of Supervisors' Resolution vacating the right of way, the encumbrance is lifted with respect to the underlying fee title owner(s). Often, a public utilities easement is reserved, if applicable. If an otherwise landlocked property is impacted, a grant of a private access easement from the fee owner to the adjoiner can be a condition of the vacation. This can be part of an agreement between all affected parties.
Streets & Highway Code section 8300-8363 covers the logistics of this.
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The County wants to be relieved off all responsibility but the municipality doesn't want to take on the maintenance. In previously reviewing the Streets & Highways Code I was under the assumption that the municipality fell under Section 8334(b). Even though the road is heavily used, it is heavily used primarily for the municipality's benefit.
I would assume a portion of the ROW could be transferred to the State for the off-ramp. The original ROW easement is written to greatly benefit the underlying fee owner, which could be at odds with the State's requirements (why the County wants to vacate it).
Even if the County and municipality agreed to transfer the ROW easement to the underlying fee owner (municipality), wouldn't the ROW be void at that point?
Could the State still claim a prescriptive right to keep the road as is, if it is vacated? If an agreement occurs, I would assume the municipality would relocate or close the road. This could push traffic to another road not owned by the municipality.
I'm trying to play out the worst case scenario so that everyone is prepared for that.
The three public agencies could certainly enter into an agreement to everyone's satisfaction. Caltrans is well versed in structuring these when altering interchanges and dealing with both City and County interests - which they term local agencies. If this fits into that category, Caltrans can be the lead agency and obtain rights pursuant to its transportation needs at the location, then relinquish portions to the local agencies pursuant to a Cooperative Agreement. This document is signed by all parties, and effectuated by Resolution of the State Transportation Commission at the end of required improvements. Once recorded, the transfer is complete.
The Maintenance Agreement is usually woven into the process, as are Joint Use and other aspects, such as relocated alignments.
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In PA if the State wants to give up a State Highway to a municipality they are required to be sure it meets current State standards before doing so. The municipality gets a burden free road for an extended time period.
It is like laws not allowing a father to abandon his children to his wife.
It may not be reasonable, since the use appears to be changing, to meet County standards in this matter.But it may be financially beneficial to the public for the County to actually pay the municipality to accept the land.
Paul in PA