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May a City Council Meet Outside the Corporate Limits of the City?

May a City Council Meet Outside the Corporate Limits of the City?

Recently I wrote a blog about a new attorney general opinion that concluded, based on specific provisions in state law, that a board of county commissioners is restricted from meeting outside the corporate limits of the county, except in very limited circumstances. My blog prompted questions from some city officials as to whether similar restrictions apply to meetings of city councils. The short answer is “no” – though there are restrictions on what types of actions can be taken if the meeting is held outside city limits.

The first point to note regarding this question is that the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) does not contain a general limitation on where the governing bodies of local governments can meet. The OPMA, at RCW 42.30.070, provides specifically:

Unless otherwise provided for in the act under which the public agency was formed, meetings of the governing body need not be held within the boundaries of the territory over which the public agency exercises jurisdiction.

So it is necessary to review the statutes governing a particular local government agency to determine if there are any restrictions on where the governing body of that agency may meet. As discussed in my earlier blog, there is such a restriction for boards of county commissioners.

The statutes that apply to cities and towns do not limit where the city or town council can meet, although, except for the statutes that apply to first class cities, they do contain a limitation on what types of action may be taken at a meeting being held outside the corporate limits. In code cities, second class cities, and towns, final actions on resolutions or ordinances must take place within the corporate limits of the city or town. RCW 35A.12.110 (code cities); RCW 35.23.181 (second class) and RCW 35.27.270 (towns).

First class cities have no statutory restrictions on what types of actions their councils may take if meeting outside the city. The charters and city codes of first class cities would need to be consulted as to any such restrictions, as well as to any restrictions on where they may meet.

Incidentally, I’m not aware of any restrictions that apply to the meeting locations of the governing bodies of special purpose districts, but I haven’t checked all the statutes that apply to the many types of special purpose districts. So, to be certain as to whether there are any such restrictions, it would be necessary to check the specific enabling statutes for the particular type of district.

Of course, in all types of local governments, most meetings will occur within the corporate limits. But if for some reason a city or town council does determine it would be helpful to hold a meeting outside the corporate limits, either with another governing body or on its own, it should be a legal meeting as long as the notice and other requirements in the OPMA are met. However, I don’t think that city and town councils should meet so far outside their boundaries such that it would be impractical for city or town residents to attend that meeting.

Photo courtesy of Michael B.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

Photo of Pat Mason

About Pat Mason

Pat served as MRSC's Legal Manager and wrote about public records, open public meetings, and just about any other municipal legal issue. He is now retired.