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Changes to Two Annexation Methods Enacted by 2013 Legislature

The 2013 Legislature has in two separate bills enacted changes to the "unincorporated island" method of annexation, though only as it applies to code cities, and has in one of those bills also enacted changes to the interlocal agreement method of annexation of areas served by a fire district, as it applies to all cities. I'd like to explain what these changes, which are effective on July 28, involve.

In SB 5417 (Laws of 2013, ch. 333), the Legislature amended the criteria for territory that can be annexed by a code city under the "unincorporated island" method of annexation authorized in RCW 35A.14.295-.299. In EHB 2068 (Laws of 2013, 2d Spec. Sess., ch. 27), the Legislature further amended those criteria, including as they had been amended in SB 5417. The result is that, in a code city, an area may be annexed under the unincorporated island method of annexation if:
  • the area contains less than 175 acres (up from 100 acres and now regardless of whether it contains residential property owners) and all its boundaries (up from 80 percent of its boundaries) are contiguous to the city (i.e., it is entirely surrounded by the city); or
  • the area is of any size and has at least 80 percent of its boundaries contiguous to the city (and now regardless of when this "island" was established), it contains residential property owners, and it is within the same county and urban growth area as the city, and the code city is required to plan under the Growth Management Act (previously this applied to all GMA code cities, including those in counties that opted in).

EHB 2068 also amended the interlocal agreement method of annexation of areas served by a fire district (or more than one district), as it applies to all cities. This method is established in RCW 35.13.238 for non-code cities and in RCW 35A.14.480 for code cities. The amendment makes all annexations under this method subject to referendum for 45 days after passage of the annexation ordinance. Previously, annexations under this method - where there was agreement on annexation goals by the city, county, and fire district - were not subject to referendum. (If only the city and county agree and the fire district is not on board, the annexation ordinance is subject to referendum.) However, the legislation provides that, if the process has been started by the city sending the statutory notice to the district and the county prior to July 28, 2013 (the effective date of the bill), an annexation under this method, where all the parties agree, is not subject to referendum.

I know this can be confusing, and I hope I have provided some clarity regarding these statutory changes.

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About Bob Meinig

Bob wrote extensively on the state Open Public Meetings Act, municipal incorporation and annexation, and a wide variety of other legal topics. He is now retired.