Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 94-2-29651-5. Date filed: 10/13/95.
Authored by Walter E. Webster. Concurring: Ronald E. Cox, Ann L. Ellington.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Webster
WEBSTER, J. -- This adverse possession case involves a dispute about the Schucks' driveway, which encroaches on adjacent property now owned by the Dicks. The prior owners of the Dicks' property include a school district and a community center. The Dicks contend that the court erred in entering summary judgment quieting title in the Schucks because (1) the state constitution prohibits adverse possession of school lands, (2) the property could not be adversely possessed against the school district because it was a municipal corporation acting in its governmental capacity, and (3) the elements of adverse possession could not be proven against the community center. They also contend that the court erred in quieting title to property beyond the driveway. We affirm.
The Schucks own (as trustees of the Berrydale Trust) several acres of property on which they live and operate a tree farm. From the 1920's until very recently, the only access to their property has been a driveway that encroaches onto the neighboring property, which is currently owned by the Dicks.
In the 1920's, the property now owned by the Dicks was the site of the Covington School and owned by School District No. 222. In 1940, the school district conveyed the property to the Covington Community Center, which used the property for community activities until the building burned in the 1970's. Mr. Schuck was an officer of the community center. In 1979, the center deeded the property to the Kent School District (School District No. 222's successor), which sold the vacant property to the Dicks in 1990.
The Schucks have maintained the driveway, adding gravel and filling potholes, and have landscaped and maintained the area adjacent to the driveway. They brought this action to quiet title in the driveway and nearby property. The court granted their motion for summary judgment.
Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. CR 56(c). We review the summary judgment order de novo, considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Kruse v. Hemp, 121 EWash. 2dF 715, 722, 853 P.2d 1373 (1993).
The Schucks present this court, as they did the trial court, with three distinct time periods in which adverse possession could have occurred: (1) between the 1920's and 1957 when the Schucks' predecessors used the driveway adversely to School District No. 222 and the Covington Community Center, (2) between 1957 and 1979 when the Schucks improved and used the driveway area while the community center owned the Dicks' property, and (3) between 1979 and 1990 when the Schucks used and improved the property while it was owned by the Kent School District. The trial court gave no indication of which time period it relied upon. We affirm based on the third time period. *fn1
Adverse Possession Against a School District
The Dicks contend that school district property cannot be adversely possessed on two different grounds: (1) the Washington constitution prohibits adverse possession of school lands, and (2) the school district is a municipal corporation and held the property in its governmental capacity.
To support their first argument, the Dicks rely on Article XVI of the state constitution and two cases from the early 1900's, State v. Seattle, 57 Wash. 602, 107 P. 827 (1910), and O'Brien v. Wilson, 51 Wash. 52, 97 P. 1115 (1908). Article XVI of the state constitution deals with public lands granted to the state and provides that such land is held in trust for the people and cannot be disposed of unless the state receives its full market value. Const. art. XVI, sec. 1. It also provides that the state may only dispose of property held by U.S. land grant in the manner prescribed in the grant. Id. Section two prohibits the sale of land granted to the state for "educational purposes" except at public auction. Const. art. XVI, sec. 2. The article does not purport to apply to land held by school districts, rather than the state.
O'Brien applied Article XVI to the adverse possession of state property received from the federal government for school land. 51 Wash. at 54. The court held that allowing adverse possession when the state had no authority to dispose of the land except as provided by the grant, which was adopted in the state constitution, would be ...