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New Laws that Affect City/Town Annexations

Washington cities and towns should be aware of the one law affecting annexation of territory that was enacted by the 2014 Legislature and that will be effective on June 12, as well as one enacted by the 2013 Legislature that may have escaped notice.  The former has to do with the notice of an annexation, and the latter has to do with the valuation of publicly-owned property.

The 2014 legislation, SHB 2433, amends RCW 35A.14.801 (code cities) and RCW 35.13.270 (non-code cities) regarding the notice of an annexation that cities and towns must provide to other entities, in four ways:

  1. It now allows the notice of an annexation to be provided by electronic means, instead of only by certified mail. ("Electronic means" is defined as "an electronic format agreed to by both sender and recipient that conveys all applicable notification information.")

  2. The notice must now include the street address of each parcel.

  3. The notice must now also be provided to light and power businesses and gas distribution businesses that serve the area annexed. That notice is in addition to that which is already required to be provided to the county assessor and county treasurer and to any fire district and library district included within the area annexed.

  4. The notice is to be provided at least 60 days before the effective date of the annexation, up from 30 days.

The 60-day provision is significant because the county treasurer is required to remit to the annexing city or town only those county road district, fire district, and library district taxes collected 60 or more days after receipt of the annexation notice. And, now, light and power businesses and gas distribution businesses are required to remit to the annexing city or town only those utility taxes collected 60 of more days after receipt of the annexation notice. So, to maximize your city or town's receipt of property and utility taxes in annexed areas, you will need to provide this annexation notice to these parties at least 60 days before the effective annexation date.

But what if the notice contains an error or omits something? The legislation provides that an error or accidental omission in the notice can be corrected by providing an amended notice. However, the recipients of the amended notice are only required to submit "applicable taxes . . . in accordance with the corrected information" 60 days after receipt of the amended notice.

The second piece of legislation that affects city and town annexations is from the 2013 legislative session, but it does not directly amend the annexation statutes, which is why it may have escaped notice. SSB 5444 amended RCW 84.40.175 to eliminate the requirement that county assessors annually value tax-exempt government-owned properties. As I interpret that legislation, government-owned property will no longer show up as having any value on the assessment rolls. So, government-owned property will not count towards the 100 percent of assessed value of the area proposed for a petition method annexation by a city or town. As a practical matter, this will mean that government-owned property can be more easily annexed by cities and towns under the petition method of annexation. But see my blog post of June 26, Update (Correction) on New Laws that Affect City/Town Annexations, in which I reach a different conclusion about the effect of SSB 5444.

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Photo of Bob Meinig

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.