This Comment argues that landowners whose property abuts unopened public street easements have a right to reasonable, non-interfering use of such easements until the city or county opens the street for its intended purpose. Unopened public street easements are dedicated streets that a city or county has not developed or used. Often, landowners use this land to store firewood, park boats, or garden. In 1995, the City of Seattle enacted Municipal Code section 15.02.100, which prohibits all use of unopened public street easements. Several Washington court decisions purportedly support the Seattle ordinance. These decisions suggest that abutting property owners have no legal right to use unopened streets absent permission from the city. However, other Washington court decisions have held that abutting property owners have a right to reasonable, non-interfering use of unopened streets. Under these decisions, this right of use continues until the city or county uses the street for its intended purpose. Other major Washington cities follow this rule. In 1999, the Washington Court of Appeals attempted to reconcile the conflicting decisions but was unable to resolve the issue satisfactorily. This Comment argues that courts and municipalities have misconstrued cases purporting to prohibit all use by the abutting landowner and that an abutting landowner may make reasonable non-interfering use of an unopened street easement.
Alfred E. Donohue,
Notes and Comments,
Unopened Public Street Easements in Washington: Whose Right to Use That Land Is It, Anyway?,
76 Wash. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/wlr/vol76/iss2/7