Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1952 No. 395 - September 05, 1952
AGO Opinion Header Image
Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

COUNTY ROAD IMPROVEMENT DISTRICTS ‑- WHETHER THE LIMITATION ON THE EXTENT OF ASSESSMENTS IN COUNTY ROAD IMPROVEMENT DISTRICTS IS CONTROLLED BY RCW 35.43.160 (NOT TO EXCEED ACTUAL VALUE) OR RCW 36.88.080 (NO GREATER THAN THE SPECIAL BENEFITS DERIVED)

Assessments levied upon the lands within a county road improvement district may be imposed to the extent of the special benefits conferred upon the particular land by the road improvement.

                                                              - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                               September 5, 1952

Honorable Ronald R. Hull
Prosecuting Attorney
Yakima County
102 County Court House
Yakima, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 395

Attention:  Lon Boyle

Dear Sir:

            Receipt is hereby acknowledged of your letter of August 6, 1952, in which you direct our attention to the following facts:

            "Section 8 of Chapter 192, Laws of 1951, provides that the provisions of chapters 35.43 and 35.44 RCW governing the methods of assessment of local improvement districts in cities and towns shall apply to county road improvement districts.  Chapter 192 provides that no assessment shall be levied which shall be greater than the special benefits derived from the improvement as determined by the board of commissioners.  Section 35.43.160 RCW restrains a city or town from proceeding with a local improvement if it appears  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] from preliminary estimates that the cost and expense exceeds the actual value of the real property according to taxable values."

            You have requested our opinion as to whether the limitation on the extent of assessments in county road improvement districts is controlled by RCW 35.43.160 (not to exceed actual value) or whether RCW 36.88.080 (no greater than the special benefits derived) is to be followed to the exclusion of RCW 35.43.160.

            Our conclusion may be summarized as follows:

            Assessments levied upon the lands within a county road improvement district may be imposed to the extent of the special benefits conferred upon the particular land by the road improvement.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 36.88.080 (§ 8, chapter 192, Laws of 1951) provides:

            "Every resolution ordering any improvement mentioned in this chapter, payment for which shall be in whole or in part by special assessments shall establish a road improvement district which shall embrace as near as may be all the property specially benefited by such improvement and the provisions of chapters 35.43 and 35.44, governing the method of assessment for local improvement districts in cities and towns shall apply to county road improvement districts created under this chapter:  Provided, That no assessment shall be levied which shall be greater than the special benefits derived from the improvement as determined by the board of commissioners."

            RCW 35.43.160 (§ 4, chapter 209, Laws of 1927) provides:

            "No city or town shall proceed with a local improvement initiated by petition if it appears from the preliminary estimates and assessment roll that the amount of the estimated cost and expense  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] thereof which is to be assessed against the property in the proposed district when added to all other outstanding local improvement assessments against the property in the proposed district (excluding penalties and interest and excluding assessments for diking, drainage, sanitary fill or for filling any street to the established grade over any tideflats or tidelands or for storm or sanitary sewers or water mains) exceeds the actual value of the real property (exclusive of improvements thereon) within the district according to the valuation last placed upon it for the purposes of general taxation, unless the proceeding was initiated by a petition signed by the owners of seventy-five percent of the lineal frontage upon the improvement and seventy-five percent of the area within the proposed district and the petition requests that the limitation be exceeded and the petitioners or someone in their behalf deposits with the city or town a sum of money equal to the amount by which the estimated cost of the improvement exceeds the limit herein fixed."

            At the outset it must be presumed that the legislature at the time that it enacted RCW 36.88.080,supra, had knowledge of the existence of RCW 35.43.160,supra, and especially so when they have adopted by reference the contents of the chapter of which it is a part, for the method of assessment to be utilized in county road improvement districts.

            It is conceivable that an improvement made, such as a new road in a relatively undeveloped area, would increase the value of the land in the district to an extent two or three fold that of its value prior to such improvement.

            The portion of RCW 36.88.080, which provides:

            "* * * no assessment shall be levied which shall be greater than the special benefits derived from the improvement as determined by the board of commissioners."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            merely indicates that assessments shall not exceed the special benefits derived from the improvement and this fact is to be determined by the board of county commissioners.

            It would seem that the legislature has intended by the language chosen that the county commissioners may levy an assessment to the extent of the special benefit to the particular land resulting from the road improvement, and as we have before pointed out, the special benefit may conceivably be greater than the actual value of the land pursuant to the last appraisal of the land for taxation purposes.  If we should conclude that RCW 35.43.160, supra, is controlling then the county commissioners could not levy an assessment which, when added to all other outstanding and unpaid assessments, exceeded the actual appraised value of the particular land for tax purposes, regardless of the fact that RCW 36.88.080 indicates that the county commissioners may levy an assessment to the extent of the special benefits conferred upon a particular land.

            The legislature is presumed to have had knowledge of RCW 35.43.160,supra, and it has by the rule of restraint on assessments in RCW 36.88.080,supra, indicated an intent that the rule of actual value in RCW 35.43.160,supra, is to be excepted from, and inoperative upon, assessments on the lands within a county road improvement district.  We, therefore, conclude that assessments levied upon the lands within a county road improvement district may be imposed to the extent of the special benefits conferred upon the particular land by the road improvement, as determined by the county commissioners, and further, that RCW 35.43.160, supra, is inoperative and of no effect insofar as county road improvement districts are concerned.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

STEPHEN C. WAY
Assistant Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo