DISTRICTS ‑- PARK AND RECREATION ‑- ELECTIONS ‑- BOUNDARY REVIEW BOARD ‑- FORMATION OF PARK AND RECREATION DISTRICT
(1) A proposition for financing a proposed park and recreation district under chapter 36.69 RCW may not be placed on the ballot at the same time as an election held on the question of formation of such a district.
(2) The formation of a park and recreation district under chapter 36.69 RCW is not subject to the jurisdiction of a county boundary review board under chapter 36.93 RCW.
(3) Formation of a park and recreation district, by itself, would not affect the administration of preexisting county parks.
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May 3, 1977
Honorable Walt O. Knowles
State Representative, Fourth District
411 House Office Building
Olympia, Washington 98504 Cite as: AGLO 1977 No. 20
By recent letter you have made reference to chapter 36.69 RCW, relating to county park and recreation districts, and have asked for our opinion on the following questions:
"'(1) Can a proposition for financing be placed on the ballot at the same time an election is held on the question of the formation of a district?
"'(2) Does the County Boundary Review Board have any jurisdiction on the boundaries or the formation of a district?
"'(3) What are the alternatives regarding the presently operated county parks that would be in the newly formed district?'"
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
We answer question (1) and (2) in the negative for the reasons stated in our analysis and question (3) in the manner set forth below.
Chapter 36.69 RCW provides for the formation and operation of parks and recreation districts ". . . in each and every class of county." Such districts are declared by RCW 36.69.010 to be:
". . . municipal corporations for the purpose of providing leisure time activities and facilities and recreational facilities, of a nonprofit nature as a public service to the residents of the geographical areas included within their boundaries."
The formation of such a district is to be initiated by the filing of a petition with the auditor of the county within which the proposed district is to be located ". . . signed by not less than fifteen percent of the registered voters within the area so described. . . ." RCW 36.69.020. Following receipt of such a petition the auditor is to verify the sufficiency of the signatures thereon and then forward it on to the county commissioners who, in turn, are to conduct hearings on the petition, designate the name and fix the boundaries of the proposed district, and then, if everything is found to be in order, conduct an election on the question of whether the district shall or shall not be formed. Accord, RCW 36.69.030-36.69.070. At the same time, a five‑member board of park and recreation commissioners is to be elected to govern the district in accordance with ensuing provisions of chapter 36.69 RCW if, as a result of the election, formation of the district is in fact approved.
With the foregoing explanation in mind we turn to your questions. First you have asked:
"'1. Can a proposition for financing be placed on the ballot at the same time an election is held on the question of the formation of a district?'"
We believe that this question must be answered in the negative. The financing of a park and recreation district is provided for under RCW 36.69.140-36.69.170. Initiation of any plan of financing, however, is a responsibility of the duly elected board of park and recreation commissioners. Therefore, although the commissioners may, themselves, be elected at the same time as the [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] election on formation of a district is conducted, no plan of financing can simultaneously be voted upon at that time since the formulation of any such plan for submission to the voters (if appropriate) can only take place once the district has been formed and the commissioners have assumed their respective offices.
Next you have asked:
"'2. Does the County Boundary Review Board have any jurisdiction on the boundaries or the formation of a district?'"
County boundary review boards, as you know, are provided for under chapter 36.93 RCW. Among the statutory functions of such boards in those counties in which they have been formed is that of reviewing
". . . the creation, dissolution, incorporation, disincorporation, consolidation, or change in the boundary of any city, town, or special purpose district; . . ." (RCW 36.93.090(1).)
For the purpose of the foregoing provision, however, the terms "governmental unit" and "special purpose district" are both specifically defined in RCW 36.93.020 as follows:
"(1) 'Governmental unit' means any incorporated city or town, metropolitan municipal corporation, or any special purpose district as defined in this section.
"(2) 'Special purpose district' means any sanitary district, sewer district, water district, fire protection district, drainage improvement district, drainage and diking improvement district, flood control zone district, irrigation district, metropolitan park district, drainage district, public utility district engaged in water distribution, or water distribution district."
From these definitions it will be readily seen that even though a park and recreation district formed pursuant to chapter 36.69 RCW, supra, constitutes a "municipal corporation," such a district does not constitute either a [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] "governmental unit" or a "special purpose district" under chapter 36.93 RCW for the simple reason that it is not among the classes of municipal corporations or political subdivisions listed in either definition.
We therefore also answer your second question, supra, in the negative.
Finally you have asked:
"'3. What are the alternatives regarding the presently operated county parks that would be in the newly formed district?'"
Our initial response to this question is that the mere formation of a park and recreation district will have no impact, by and of itself, upon the administration or operation of existing county parks. Such a district will, however, have the legal authority to acquire real property for the purpose of establishing and operating its own parks ‑ and it would be possible, in the exercise of that authority, for a newly formed park and recreation district thus to acquire property which already constitutes a county park at the time of its acquisition. See, in general, RCW 36.69.130. Therefore, in the most basic terms, the alternatives regarding presently operated county parks which could be available upon the formation of a park and recreation district would be (a) for those parks, or some of them, to remain in county ownership and continue to be operated as county parks or (b) for some or all of them to be acquired, instead, by the newly formed district and, henceforth, operated as parks by the board of commissioners of that district.
We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General