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AGO 1950 No. 389 - November 21, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICTS ‑- LOCAL IMPROVEMENT DISTRICTS MAY NOT BE CO-EXTENSIVE [[COEXTENSIVE]]IN AREA WITH FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICTS

One local improvement district may not include the whole of the fire protection district under which it is to be organized.

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                                                               November 21, 1950

Honorable Patrick M. Steele
Prosecuting Attorney, Pierce County
Tacoma, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 389

Attention:  !ttValen H. Honeywell, Jr.
            Chief Civil Deputy

Dear Sir:

            In your letter of October 5, 1950, you submit the following request for an opinion from this office:

            "Your opinion is requested as to the propriety, under the provisions of Rem. Rev. Stat., Sec. 5654-117 and Sec. 5654-140, of the organization of a local improvement district which is coextensive in area with the Fire Protection District within which it is organized."

            Our conclusion may be stated as follows:

            Under section 6, chapter 70, Laws of 1941 (5654-117, Rem. Supp. 1941) and section 40, chapter 34, Laws of 1939 (Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp. 5654-44), a single local improvement district may not include the total area of the fire protection district under which it is organized.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Section 5654-117, Rem. Supp. 1941, provides, in part, as follows:

            "Such fire‑protection districts shall have authority to create local improvementdistricts to include any or all of the lands within the fire‑protection district, to provide for the levy and collection of special taxes againstthe respective lands benefited and to issue evidences of indebtedness chargeable against said lands as in this act provided; * * *"  (Emphasis supplied)

            Section 5654-140, Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp., provides that:

            "In any instance where the acquisition, maintenance and operation of fire‑fighting equipment, apparatus and instrumentalities necessary thereforare of special benefit to part of the lands in the fire‑protection district, the board of fire commissioners shall have authority to include such lands in a local improvement district.  * * *" (Emphasis supplied)

            The last portion of that section directs the district board:

            "* * * to determine whether such a local improvement appears feasibleand of special benefit to the lands concerned."  (Emphasis supplied)

            Section 5654-140,supra, sets out the purposes for which and the circumstances under which, a local improvement district may be formed within a fire protection district.  The provisions of this section clearly indicate that it is contemplated that thepart of the lands of the fire protection district to be included in a local improvement district, shall be "specially" benefited as distinguished from a general benefit to the entire area of the fire protection district.

            Similarly, the idea of a special benefit to that part of the fire protection district which is to be included in an improvement district is carried over into the next two succeeding sections of the Act, sections 41 and 42, chapter 34,  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] Laws of 1939 (Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp., Secs. 5654-141 and 5654-142).  Section 5654-141 directs the district board to dismiss the petition for a local improvement district if it is found that it will be "* * * of nospecial benefit to the lands concerned.  * * *"

            Section 5654-142 again directs the district board to exclude from the proposed improvement district, any land of the fire protection district which will not be "specially benefited."

            The provisions of section 5654-117 must be construed in combination with those in sections 5654-140, 5654-141 and 5654-142.  It is our opinion that the construction of these sections together must lead to the conclusion that "improvement districts" as used in section 5654-117 is limited to the plural in its connection with "all of the lands within the fire protection district;" thatall of the lands within the fire protection district may only be included in two or more local improvement districts and may not be included in a single improvement district.

            Any other interpretation would permit a fire protection district to render ineffective the provisions of section 5654-139, Rem. Supp. 1947, which limits the aggregate tax levies for all fire protection district purposes, "exclusive of levies for local improvement districts" to four mills.  By the organization of a local improvement district taking in the entire area of the fire protection district in disregard of what appears to be the express intent that an improvement district shall be of special benefit to its area as a part of the fire protection district, the limitation on the tax levy would be avoided.

            We are, therefore, of the opinion that one local improvement district may not include the whole of the fire protection district under which it is to be organized.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

FRED L. HARLOCKER
Assistant Attorney General

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