Utility right-of-way franchise
In accordance with state law, a franchise approved by the King County Council is required in order to use County road rights-of-way for the construction and maintenance of waterworks, gas pipes, telephone, telegraph and electric lines, sewers, cable TV, petroleum product pipelines, and other such public and private utilities.
Franchise Application - new, renewal, amendment, or transfer
Questions about the application process?
Call the Real Estate Services Section at 206-477-9350 or email Franchise.FMD@kingcounty.gov.
Instructions and costs
A. When is an application submitted?
An application is required for the following circumstances:
- For a new franchise or a renewal of an existing franchise
- For a short-term extension of an existing franchise that is about to expire
- To transfer or otherwise modify an existing franchise
Application materials are submitted to the Clerk of the Council at the King County Courthouse, 516 Third Ave., Suite 1200, Seattle, WA 98104, or Clerk.Council@kingcounty.gov.
B. What is submitted with an application?
- Completed application form. Fill out and sign the application form.
- Area Description. A complete and accurate description of the area of unincorporated King County in which the Utility requests access to County road rights-of-way for its facilities. A map is not sufficient without an accompanying description, in an electronic format using Microsoft Word (if available).
- Map. A map showing the proposed franchise area in unincorporated King County, in an electronic format that is GIS compatible (if available). If the proposed franchise area is not fully occupied by the utility, it may submit a map indicating the location of all its facilities in the proposed franchise area, in an electronic format that is GIS compatible (if available).
Questions about the application process? Call the Real Estate Services Section at 206-477-9350 or email RES.Permits@kingcounty.gov.
The Real Estate Services Section of the Facilities Management Division is responsible for coordinating the review and processing of franchise applications. The application is also reviewed by the Department of Local Services and the Department of Executive Services.
Applications for water and sewer franchises are also reviewed by the Utility Technical Review Committee.
Adjustments are made to the base franchise agreement document as needed or by negotiation, however the following provisions are required by King County Code 6.27:
- All franchises shall be consistent with the King County Comprehensive Plan and Road Standards.
- All franchises require the following provisions:
- The applicant's plan to remove or relocate at its cost all above-ground equipment from the County right-of-way that poses a hazard to the general public;
- Provisions requiring the applicant to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the county against damages, including environmental damages, caused by, arising out of, or incidental to the grantee’s exercise of rights and obligations set forth in the franchise agreement.
- Grantees of franchises for water and sewer utilities shall:
- Possess a previously required comprehensive plan, if required to have such a plan by King County Code 13.24.010.
- Be consistent with health and sanitation regulations of the Seattle-King County department of public health and the state.
- Meet County standards for water mains and fire hydrants and other fire suppression water facilities and services as defined in state law (RCW 70.315).
- Repair, at no expense to the county, all existing facilities that it owns within county road rights-of-way, including all appurtenant facilities and services lines connecting its system to users, if the repair is required by the county for any reasonable purpose.
- Adjust, remove, or relocate, at no expense to the county, existing facilities and service lines connecting its system to users, if the county determines the action is reasonably necessary to allow for an improvement or alteration planned by the county in the road right-of-way.
- Additional requirements when facilities connected to the applicant's system are within the ROW and that the applicant does not own are described in King County Code 6.27.060.6.a
When the preliminary review is completed, and the applicant and County agree on the franchise terms and conditions, the application is transmitted from the Executive to the County Council for final review.
- The Clerk of the Council will schedule a public hearing to discuss whether the franchise is in the best interest of the county.
- If the franchise is approved, it is granted by ordinance for a term specified by the Council and subject to the terms and conditions indicated in the ordinance. The franchise must be accepted and signed by an authorized officer of the applicant within 30 days. The Clerk of the Council will thereafter route the franchise to the Executive branch for signature.
- The Clerk of the Council will return a fully executed franchise with original signatures to the grantee, the Council, and the Real Estate Services Section.
Fee is for the administrative costs incurred by the county in the reviewing and processing of the franchise application. You will receive an invoice for this fee at the time of franchise issuance.
Reimbursement of Actual Costs
You may be required to reimburse the county for the actual costs incurred by the county in the reviewing and processing of the franchise application, to the extent the costs exceed that covered by the application fee. If reimbursement is necessary, it will be indicated on the invoice you receive at the time of franchise issuance.
Fee is for the full advertising costs associated with the application. This fee will be billed to you separately by the Clerk of the Council. Advertising fees are not refundable, even if the application is disapproved.
By order dated September 4, 2018, the King County Superior Court ruled that King County lacked authority to impose franchise compensation or rent as provided in Ordinance 18403. King County is appealing this ruling. While the case is on appeal, the Facilities Management Division (FMD) does not intend to take further action to negotiate or collect franchise compensation as described in the Compensation Notice and Estimate sent to utilities in 2018. In the event the Superior Court's ruling is overturned on appeal, FMD intends to resume action on the Compensation Notices and Estimates, and will notify utilities of the steps that will be taken at that time.
- King County Code Chapter 6.27: Right-of-Way Franchises for Utilities
- King County Code Chapter 14.44: Utilities on County Rights-of-Way
- King County Code Chapter 4A.675: Real Estate Services Fees
- King County Code Chapter 13.24: Water and Sewer Systems
- King County Technical Review Committee: Water and Sewer Comprehensive Plans
- King County Road Standards: Road Standards 2016