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January 29, 2019


Word of the day


The transfer of privately owned land to the public without consideration, with the intent that the land will be accepted and used for public purposes. A landowner may dedicate the entire fee simple interest or an easement such as a public right-of-way across the landowner’s property.

There are two types of dedication: statutory and common law. A statutory dedication is accomplished by recording a subdivision map approved by local officials and expressly indicating on the map those areas dedicated to the public, such as parks and streets.

A common-law dedication is a matter of contract and thus requires an offer, evidenced by an intention and an unequivocal act of dedication on the part of the owner and acceptance on the part of the public. The dedication may be express (as when a developer or subdivider deeds roads to the county) or implied (as when the owner has acquiesced to the public use of the owner’s property, usually for the prescriptive period). (See cession deed.)

For example, to prevent the public from claiming a dedication, the Rockefeller Center closes off its streets and sidewalks for one day out of the year. This shows that the public’s right to use the property is a mere license and that Rockefeller Center is definitely not dedicating its property to the public. Some owners also imbed into their sidewalk a metal plaque stating, “Private Property, Permission to Use Revocable.” Signs that say “No Trespassing” may be insufficient for purposes of preventing the public from claiming a dedication.

The fee interest acquired by dedication is similar to a qualified fee. For example, upon abandonment of the dedicated public use, the fee goes to the owner under a possibility of reverter, while the government may not divert the property to a new use.

Dedication of property such as streets and open spaces is sometimes made a prerequisite to governmental approval of a proposed development. In some cases, the developer can pay a fee rather than dedicate land.

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