This page provides an overview of annexation laws in Washington State, including a list of related statutes and regulations, examples of local government procedures, policies and fiscal studies, court decisions, and other recommended resources. For a summary of all the various methods by which cities may annex territory, see Annexation Methods.
The methods by which cities may annex territory are governed strictly by state law, and they vary somewhat by city classification. Cities and towns located in counties that plan under the Growth Management Act may annex only property that is located within their designated urban growth areas.
The basic methods by which cities may now annex territory are the following:
- Old or traditional petition method – Requires approval from owners of property representing a certain percentage - now uniformly 60% - of the assessed value of the proposed annexation area.
- New petition method – Requires support of property owners representing a majority of the area proposed for annexation and of a majority of the voters in the area. The method is codified in RCW 35.13.410 through 35.13.460 and RCW 35A.14.420 through 35A.14.450.
- Election method – Requires approval of the voters in the proposed annexation area.
Although there are other methods of annexation (municipal purpose annexations, annexations of "islands" of unincorporated territory, the unincorporated island-interlocal agreement method, the interlocal agreement method for annexation of areas served by fire districts, and annexations of federal areas) they are available only in limited circumstances and so not often used.
For further information and resources related to all these various methods, see Annexation Methods. Also, MRSC has produced a publication titled Annexation by Washington Cities and Towns that outlines the pro and con arguments for annexation, the consequences of annexation, reviews in detail the methods for annexation, and discusses the role of boundary review boards in the annexation process.
Statutes and Regulations
- Ch. 35.13 RCW – Annexation of unincorporated areas (for cities of the first and second class, and towns).
- Ch. 35A.14 RCW – Annexation by code cities.
- Ch. 35.10 RCW – Consolidation and annexation of cities and towns – These annexation procedures apply to annexation of one portion of a code or non-code city or of a town to another or to consolidation of two or more cities or towns.
- WAC 173-26-150 – Local government annexation – Shoreline environment predesignation in planning jurisdictions.
- WAC 173-26-160 – Local government annexation – Involving shorelines; requirement of amending or developing shoreline master program.
Examples of Procedures
Examples of Goals and Policies
Examples of Information Programs
Examples of Fiscal Annexation Impact Studies and Financial Plans
Example of Franchises in Newly Annexed Areas
Examples of Interlocal Agreements
Examples of Pre-Annexation Zoning and Annexation Development Agreements
For information related to the certification of annexations by the Washington State Office of Financial Management (OFM), see OFM's webpages on Certification of Annexations: Procedures and Annexation and municipal boundary changes.
Annexation of more territory than was described in petition
See Interlake Sporting Ass'n v. Boundary Review Board, 158 Wn.2d 545 (2006) – The state supreme court invalidated a boundary review board decision that, at the request of King County, expanded a proposed annexation by the city of Redmond to more than three times the size of the area represented in the annexation petition. The expanded area had previously voted at an election to reject annexation. The court, in a 5-4 decision, held that the review board violated RCW 35A.14.140, which authorizes a code city to "annex all or any portion of the proposed area but may not include in the annexation any property not described in the petition," and that the review board exceeded its authority under RCW 36.93.150 to modify the boundaries of a proposed annexation. The court also concluded that the review board's decision offended the due process rights of property owners in the annexation area. However, the 2012 legislature, in ESHB 1627 (Laws of 2012, ch. 212), responded to this decision by amending RCW 36.93.150(2) to give boundary review boards the express authority to add territory to a proposed annexation as long as the amount of territory added does not exceed 100% of the original proposal.
Notice to Boundary Review Board
See Snohomish County Fire Protection District v. Boundary Review Board, 155 Wn.2d 70 (2005) – RCW 36.93.090 provides that a notice of intention must be filed with the boundary review board within 180 days of when the annexation is "proposed." The state supreme court interpreted this to mean that an annexation is "proposed" for purposes of this statute when the initiators of the annexation file their petition - in this case, a 75% petition - with the city. An annexation is not "proposed" for purposes of this statute when the initial notice of intention, sometimes referred to as the 10% petition, is filed with the city.
Petition method is constitutional
See Grant County Fire Protection District v. City of Moses Lake, 150 Wn.2d 791 (2004) – The state supreme court, upon reconsideration, reverses its earlier decision at 145 Wn.2d 702 (2002) and holds that the petition method of annexation is constitutional.
Franchises in annexed territory
See Dahl-Smyth, Inc. v. City of Walla Walla, 148 Wn.2d 835 (2003) – RCW 35A.14.900 and RCW 35.13.280 provide that, when a city that annexes an area that is served by certain types of franchises, any such franchise is automatically canceled and the city must issue a new franchise for a seven-year period (formerly five years), unless the city purchases or condemns the franchise. Under these statutes, if the city issues a new franchise for a seven-year period, it will still be liable to the franchisee for any "measurable damages" the franchisee suffers. The state supreme court, overruling the court of appeals, held that the city's liability under RCW 35A.14.900 for "measurable damages" is "to be calculated at the time of annexation by determining the difference in market value of the hauler's [WUTC-issued] certificate before and after annexation. In determining an award, the amount of damages must then be reduced by the benefit gained by the hauler from the five-year [now seven-year] extension of the franchise."
Annexation of school property
See King County Water District v. Renton, 88 Wn. App. 214 (1997) – In this case, the court of appeals held that, under RCW 28A.335.110, a public school district may petition to have school property annexed to a city only if the school property constitutes the whole of the property sought to be annexed. A public school district may not petition for annexation if the school property comprises only a fraction of the property sought to be annexed. This holding applies to code cities, as well as to other classes of cities.
Outside utility agreements can be used as a valid waiver of future rights
See Yakima County Fire Protection District No. 12 v. City of Yakima, 122 Wn.2d 371 (1993) – Some cities in Washington utilize what is termed an outside utility agreement, in which property owners who reside outside the city limits are allowed to receive municipal utility services if they sign an agreement that they will sign a future annexation petition. This type of outside utility agreement was upheld in the case as a valid waiver of future rights.
City can sign annexation petition
See Johnson v. Spokane, 19 Wn. App. 722 (1978) – In this case a city was held to have the authority to sign an annexation petition in the same manner as owners of taxable property. The fact that property owned by the city is tax exempt does not mean the city cannot sign the annexation petition.
- Annexation by Washington Cities and Towns – This publication outlines the pro and con arguments for annexation, the consequences of annexation, reviews in detail the methods for annexation, and discusses the role of boundary review boards in the annexation process.
- Annexation Blog Posts – Provides a list of annexation blog articles.
- Annexation Inquiries – Browse questions and answers on special considerations regarding annexations