Vacation of Street/Alley/Public Road
The power to vacate a street, alley or a public road within Lancaster County outside the City of Lincoln or other county municipalities, is vested in the Board of Commissioners. The Board may vacate a public road if it deems that such a vacation would be in the "public interest". The statutes of the State of Nebraska prescribe a procedural process for determining whether or not a road should be vacated, and in addition to this, Lancaster County requires certain other steps be taken before a vacation petition can be acted upon.
If the County Board should decide to vacate the public road, it may either sell the property, allow it to revert to private ownership or have it remain in the public ownership. The Board's choice of alternatives will depend on the facts of each particular vacation.
The Board may also condition any vacation as it sees fit. It can be expected that the preservation of all existing easements, right-of-ways or similar encumbrances for public utilities or other beneficial or necessary uses will be a condition of most vacations. In any vacation where the land is to be sold, vacation will necessarily be conditioned upon the payment to the County of the entire purchase price of the property together with any fees or expenses charged from or for all parties purchasing right-of-way or to whom expenses have been assessed in the vacation process.
The following is a step by step process to file for a street vacation.
The Nebraska statutes (§39-1723) require that:
Any person desiring the relocation, vacation or abandonment of any public road of the County, shall file in the office of the County Clerk of the proper county, a petition signed by ten or more electors (registered voters) residing within ten miles of the road proposed to be relocated, vacated, or abandoned, which petition shall contain: 1) the names and addresses of said electors, 2) a clear and unambiguous description of the road proposed to be relocated, vacated or abandoned, 3) the reason or reasons why said road should be relocated, vacated or abandoned, and 4) a request that a time and date be set for public hearing before the County Board.
A form for this petition is available online, in the Office of the County Clerk or the County Attorney.
At the same time, or as soon thereafter as possible, as the petition with the names of ten registered voters is filed with the County Clerk, Lancaster County also requires that the primary petitioner file with the County Clerk an Information Sheet and separate Petition to Vacate a Public Road With Release and Waiver of Rights and Title and Quit Claim to the County of Lancaster from each owner of property abutting the road to be vacated. A separate sheet of information regarding filling out this petition is provided.
Within two weeks of the receipt of the petition with ten registered voters' signatures thereon as described in paragraph one, the County Board directs the County Engineer, by resolution, to study the use being made of such public road and to submit, in writing, to the County Board within 30 days a report upon the study made and his recommendations as to the relocation, vacation or abandonment thereof. At the same time, the County Board will refer the matter to the Planning Department, which shall report in writing within 30 days, unless a longer period is granted by the County Board, as to the character and degree of conformity or nonconformity of the proposed vacation to the Comprehensive Plan. And, if the road to be vacated is within three miles of the City of Lincoln, City Council approval must also be obtained. This process will be initiated by the Planning Department. The City Clerk will forward such approval or disapproval to the County Clerk and the Board of Commissioners.
While preparing his report, the County Engineer will have an independent appraisal made of the property based on Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) standards if a deposit is made with the County Clerk to cover the cost of such an appraisal. The deposit may vary according to the project involved, but $200 shall be the minimum deposit. If the deposit is not made, no appraisal will be performed and it cannot be anticipated that the County Board will vacate the road in question. The appraisal shall consider the costs of making the land usable and whether or not a similar dedication is being made to replace the road proposed to be vacated. An appraisal may not be required when the vacation is part of a platting process. Although it can be expected that the appraisal will be acceptable to the County Board in most cases, the Board shall not be absolutely bound by the appraisal.
If the appraisal costs are more than the $200 deposit, the primary petitioner shall be liable for the remainder of such costs before the vacation is finalized. If the appraisal costs are less than the $200 deposit and any additional expenses owing the county by the primary petitioner, including the purchase price of any vacated real estate, such excess money shall be refunded after finalization of the vacation.
If, at the time the Board directs the County Engineer by resolution to study the use being made of such public road and before an appraisal is made, it is clear that the public interest will not be served by such a vacation, the primary petitioner will be so informed and shall have the opportunity to withdraw the request. This step does not, however, guarantee the petitioner that, if an appraisal is made, the vacation will be granted. Likewise, if it is clear that the road requested to be vacated is a road the County intends to vacate on its own initiative, the primary petitioner shall be so informed and no appraisal or quit claim deed shall be required.
When the County Board has received the County Engineer's report, they will set a time, date and place for a public hearing upon the vacation. The resolution fixing the time, date and place of the public hearing must be published in a legal newspaper of the County for three consecutive weeks (publication during each week must be on the same day of the week as the first publication). The Board, not less than two weeks in advance of the hearing, will, by registered or certified mail, send copies of the resolution setting that date to the owners of land abutting on or adjacent to the road to be vacated. All of the requirements set forth in the steps above should be completed by the time of the public hearing.
After the public hearing, the County Board, by resolution, at its next meeting or as soon thereafter as practical, either vacates or refuses to vacate the road in question, subject to any of the conditions outlined above. A quit claim deed will be given to those persons purchasing property in this process only after all fees from all parties have been received and all the other conditions of the vacation have been met.
An Instruction Sheet, Petition and Information Sheet can be downloaded for your convenience.