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AGO 1975 No. 12 - May 28, 1975
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

TAXATION ‑- PROPERTY ‑- PLATS AND SUBDIVISIONS ‑- DEPOSIT FOR ANTICIPATED PROPERTY TAXES

RCW 58.08.040 does not require the payment of a deposit for anticipated property taxes upon the filing, pursuant to regulations adopted under RCW 58.17.060, of a "short plat" subsequent to May 31 in any year and prior to the date of collection of the taxes.

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                                                                   May 28, 1975

Honorable James P. McNally
Prosecuting Attorney
Pend Oreille County
Newport, Washington 99156

                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGO 1975 No. 12

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested our opinion on two questions which we have paraphrased as follows:

            (1) Does RCW 58.08.040 require the payment of a deposit for anticipated property taxes upon the filing, pursuant to regulations adopted under RCW 58.17.060, of a "short plat" subsequent to May 31 in any year and prior to the date of collection of the taxes?

            (2) If question (1) is answered in the affirmative, is the amount to be deposited as the anticipated tax payable only with respect to that portion of the property excised from the total original tract and comprising the "short subdivision" or, alternatively, is the deposit of anticipated taxes payable on the entire original tract?

            We answer your first question in the negative, for the reasons set forth in our analysis below.  Consideration of your second question is, therefore, unnecessary.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 58.08.040 provides that:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "Any person filing a plat subsequent to May 31st in any year and prior to the date of the collection of taxes, shall deposit with the county treasurer a sum equal to the product of the county assessor's latest valuation on the unimproved property in such subdivision multiplied by the current year's dollar rate increased by twenty-five percent on the property platted.  The treasurer's receipt for said amount shall be taken by the auditor as evidence of the payment of the tax.  The treasurer shall appropriate so much of said deposit as will pay the taxes on the said property when the tax rolls are placed in his hands for collection, and in case the sum deposited is in excess of the amount necessary for the payment of the said taxes, the treasurer shall return, to the party depositing, the amount of said excess, taking his receipt therefor, which receipt shall be accepted for its face value on the treasurer's quarterly settlement with the county auditor."

            This statute originated as § 2, chapter 129, Laws of 1893.  RCW 58.17.060, on the other hand, is a part of the modern, comprehensive platting law which was enacted by the legislature in 1969, as chapter 271, Laws of 1969, Ex. Sess. Accord, AGLO 1974 No. 7 [[to Charles R. Byrd, Prosecuting Attorney, Okanogan County on January 17, 1974]], copy enclosed.

            Although RCW 58.08.040 has been amended several times since enactment,1/ the opening phrase "Any person filing a plat. . ." (emphasis supplied) has remained the same.  This fact becomes significant when one examines the legislative history of platting and subdividing in this state during the past four decades.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Prior to 1937, platting and subdividing were undertaken pursuant to the provisions of what are now codified as chapters 58.08, 58.10, 58.11 and 58.12 RCW.  These early platting acts, as we noted in AGLO 1974 No. 7, at p. 5,

            ". . . were 'hardly more than a conveyancing aid.'  Lake Intervale Homes, Inc.,supra, [v. Parsippany-Troy Hills, 28 N.J. 423, 147 A.2d 28 (1958)] citing Magnolia Development Co. Inc. v. Coles, 10 N.J. 223, 89 A.2d 664 (1952).  Their purpose [we then said] was merely

            "'. . . (a) to provide a method for officially filing maps so that future conveyancing instruments might refer to a parcel of realty by reference to the lot numbers as delineated on the map, and (b) to set forth sound engineering standards for maps so filed so as to avoid surveying errors, . . .'Lake Intervale Homes, Inc., supra, 147 A.2d at 33."

            The legislature's enactment of chapter 186, Laws of 1937, (later codified as chapter 58.16 RCW) constituted a new and comparatively more strict approach to the regulation of platting and subdividing in our state.  Like other platting and subdividing regulatory statutes of the period, the 1937 statute served as an integral part of the land use planning process, along with zoning regulations and their underlying comprehensive plans.  Its first section, RCW 58.16.010, provided that:

            "The platting and subdividing of land into lots, or tracts comprising five or more of such lots or tracts, or containing a dedication of any part thereof as a public street or highway is hereby required to proceed under, and in compliance with, the provisions of this chapter."

            However, as described in AGLO 1974 No. 7, this act was repealed and replaced by the even more comprehensive and detailed provisions of chapter 271, Laws of 1969, Ex. Sess.,supra, now chapter 58.17 RCW.  On the other hand, the "old" platting law, chapter 58.08 RCW, was not so repealed, yet we nevertheless there concluded that a certain undeveloped  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] subdivision originally platted under the old law would have to be platted again under the new law if the lots contained in the tract involved were to be sold.

            This new platting law is even broader in its scope than was the intervening 1937 act.  The new law expressly applies to every subdivision of land in the state, as indicated by the following language of RCW 58.17.030:

            "Every subdivision shall comply with the provisions of this chapter.  Every short subdivision as defined in this chapter shall comply with the provisions of any local regulation adopted pursuant to RCW 58.17.060."

            RCW 58.17.020(1) defines the term "subdivision" to mean:

            ". . . the division of land into five or more lots, tracts, parcels, sites or divisions for the purpose of sale or lease and shall include all resubdivision of land."

            A "short subdivision," in turn, is defined by RCW 58.17.020(6) as

            ". . . the division of land into four or less lots, tracts, parcels, sites or subdivisions for the purpose of sale or lease."

            RCW 58.17.020(2) defines the word "plat" as

            ". . . a map or representation of a subdivision, showing thereon the division of a tract or parcel of land into lots, blocks, streets and alleys or other divisions and dedications."

            Similarly, RCW 58.17.020(7) defines a "short plat" as the map or representation of a short subdivision.

            The significance of this distinction will be seen from RCW 58.17.030,supra.  Subdivisions are required to comply with the act itself.  Short subdivisions, instead, are to comply with local regulations adopted pursuant to RCW  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] 58.17.060, the other statute cited in your question (along with RCW 58.08.040).  RCW 58.17.060 codifies § 6, chapter 271, Laws of 1969, Ex. Sess., as later amended by § 3, chapter 134, Laws of 1974, 1st Ex. Sess., to read as follows:

            "The legislative body of a city, town, or county shall adopt regulations and procedures, and appoint administrative personnel for the summary approval of short plats and short subdivisions, or revision thereof.  Such regulations shall be adopted by ordinance and may contain wholly different requirements than those governing the approval of preliminary and final plats of subdivisions and may require surveys and monumentations and shall require filing of a short plat for record in the office of the county auditor:  Provided, That such regulations must contain a requirement that land in short subdivisions may not be further divided in any manner within a period of five years without the filing of a final plat:  Provided further, That such regulations are not required to contain a penalty clause as provided in RCW 36.32.120 and may provide for wholly injunctive relief."

            Section 34 of the 1969 platting act also amended the provisions of RCW 58.08.040.  This amendment, however, did not explicitly add to the beginning phrase of that section, "Any person filing a plat subsequent to May 31st in any year . . ." the new subjects of the 1969 act, short plats and short subdivisions.  Your first question, basically stated, is thus that of whether the word "plat" in RCW 58.08.040 includes not only such plats as are filed under chapter 58.17 RCW, but, in addition,short plats filed under regulations adopted pursuant to that chapter as well.

            In AGO 65-66 No. 116 [[to C. E. Hormel, Prosecuting Attorney, Adams County on October 24, 1966]], a copy of which is also enclosed, this office concluded that the word "plat" in RCW 58.08.040 does not include "replats" filed under chapter 58.12 RCW, on the basis of the maxim or rule of statutory interpretation, the expression of a specific object is the exclusion of what is not mentioned.2/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            In responding to your inquiry we are also mindful of the rule that when legislative intent is plainly expressed so that an act read by itself or in connection with other statutes pertaining to the same subject is clear, certain, and unambiguous, courts have only the simple and obvious duty to enforce the law according to its terms; the legislature must be understood to mean what is plainly expressed.  Island County v. Calvin Philips & Co., 195 Wash. 265, 80 P.2d 840 (1938).  Language of a statute which is explicit and unequivocal will not be given an ambiguous meaning in order that other language supposed to remove the ambiguity may be applied.  In re Phillips'Estate, 193 Wash. 194, 74 P.2d 1015 (1938).  Moreover, the legislature, in passing a statute, is presumed to be familiar with its own prior enactments.  Ropo, Inc. v. Seattle, 67 Wn.2d 574, 409 P.2d 148 (1965).

            RCW 58.08.040 was further amended in 1973 to change the phrase "current year's millage rate" to read "current year's dollar rate."3/   However again, no amendment to RCW 58.08.040's opening phrase, "Any person filing aplat. . ." (emphasis supplied) was made ‑ nor has any amendment to that phrase been made in any of three subsequently completed sessions of the legislature.  Under like circumstances our court in State ex rel. Taylor v. Superior Court, 2 Wn.2d 575, 98 P.2d 985 (1940), concluded that a failure of the legislature in three successive sessions to pass bills providing for the creation of a county purchasing department under the supervision of the board of county commissioners manifested legislative intent that counties should continue their established practice of having each officer purchase the supplies necessary for the proper conduct of his or her office.

            In summary, on the basis of the legislative history of RCW 58.08.040, the rules of statutory interpretation we have discussed above, and the reasoning contained in AGO 65-66 No. 116, we therefore conclude that the word "plat"  [[Orig. Op. Page 7]] in the opening phrase of RCW 58.08.040 does not refer to short plats or short subdivisions filed pursuant to RCW 58.17.060 and the regulations and procedures of a unit of general purpose local government enacted in accordance therewith.  Therefore, RCW 58.08.040 does not require the payment of a deposit for anticipated taxes upon the filing, pursuant to regulations adopted under RCW 58.17.060, of a short plat subsequent to May 31 in any year and prior to the date of collection of taxes.

            Having thus answered your first question in the negative, consideration of your second question is unnecessary.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

GORDON B. DAVIDSON
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/The amendments to § 2, chapter 129, Laws of 1893, now codified as RCW 58.08.040, are as follows:  Section 1, chapter 44, Laws of 1907; § 1, chapter 200, Laws of 1909; § 1, chapter 66, Laws of 1963; § 34, chapter 271, Laws of 1969, Ex. Sess.; § 74, chapter 195, Laws of 1973, 1st Ex. Sess.

2/Citing State v. Thompson, 38 Wn.2d 774, 232 P.2d 87 (1951).

3/See, § 74, chapter 195, Laws of 1973, Ex. Sess.

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