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Supporting Documentation

PWPT-304.1 — Street & Alley Vacations

 

Basic Information

Denver’s Street System: The City of Denver owns and operates pieces of property which are dedicated as Right of Way (ROW) for transportation and utility needs.  The responsibility to operate, maintain, and permit work, in the ROW falls to the City and County of Denver Public Works Department. 

ROW provides the legal right of use for pedestrians, vehicles and other conveyances; it generally includes roadways, connected tree-lawns, sidewalks, and alleys. The ROW is also utilized for important public services such as emergency police and fire response, waste pick-up, and vital utility infrastructure such as electrical wires, water, wastewater, and storm water conveyance.

What is a ROW Vacation? 

The term "Vacation" as it relates to a public roadway, means the right "to abandon" or "to give up" the public's right to use the road or road ROW for transportation. When a request to vacate a ROW is made, a review is completed to determine if the required utility and transportation needs can be met without this piece of property being a dedicated ROW.

Why Vacating ROW might be appropriate? 

There are several circumstances that the City of Denver may vacate ROW.  In some cases, a road or ROW is no longer needed for public use could be vacated if it interferes with a property owner's use of the land (for building a fence, a house, etc...).  Other circumstances could include elimination of unused alleyways, dead-end roadways, or cleaning up excess or historical ROW remnants that are no longer needed.  If a property owner or community of property owners wish to operate the ROW as private roadway, they may request that the City vacate the ROW.  When a request to vacate a ROW is made, a review is completed to determine if the required transportation, service, and utility needs can be properly met without this piece of property being a dedicated ROW. 

 

Some things to think about before proceeding with a Vacation request

The City and County of Denver Public Works Department maintains an established process for Vacating ROW (see Permit PWPT 304 - PDF)

Important issues must be considered before submitting an application, including: 

  • The property owner(s) must pay a fee to cover the vacation process. Depending on length and complexity, Vacating ROW can be an expensive and lengthy process. This process may require the expertise of engineers, land surveyors, legal representation or other professional services.
  • The property owner(s) must maintain the property. If Vacated ROW still functions as a street or alley, the Home Owners Association or a created Maintenance District must execute a binding maintenance agreement with all adjacent land owners.
  • The property owner(s) must agree. Do all the adjacent land owners agree to Vacate the ROW? If not, expect the process to be much longer, more expensive, and, ultimately, may not be approved.
  • There must be limited or no impacts on the surrounding community or public at large. ROW in the City is generally part of a roadway network or “grid” that provides benefits to the public at large, including but not limited to, efficient access to various destinations. Removing a piece of that grid from public use could have various negative impacts for the community’s access, services, and enjoyment. The City will consider these factors before approving any request to vacate ROW.
  • The property owners need to think about how the property will be distributed between them.  Requesters of the vacation must demonstrate how the ROW property will be legally distributed for use and responsibility between property owners.  The City does not require this, but it is something that needs to be considered.
  • The property owners must meet minimum legal access requirements.  The vacation of ROW is not allowed to result in cutting off legal access to other properties or access for guaranteed services like emergency response.  If it does, a legal document or easement may be needed to preserve that access.
  • The property owners must allow for continued operation of services and utilities.  Emergency access, trash pick-up, maintenance of water conveyance infrastructure, electrical lines, communication lines, and  other essential services and utilities infrastructure must be allowed to operate effectively after the vacation.  Requests to vacate must be evaluated all City Departments and utility providers to assess the impacts on the services they provide.  Typically, the property owners will have to establish easement or right-of-use agreements with all affected parties for any request to vacate to be approved.
  • There is no guarantee the request will be approved. Each application for vacating ROW is unique and there is no guarantee of approval.  A thorough understanding of need to vacate ROW combined with the support of all adjacent landowners and members of the public who may be affected by such an action is important before beginning this process.