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AGO 1959 No. 19 - March 04, 1959
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

PLANNING COMMISSIONS - REGIONAL - AUTHORITY OF VANCOUVER-CLARK COUNTY REGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION TO QUALIFY FOR FEDERAL GRANT FOR URBAN PLANNING.

The Vancouver-Clark County regional planning commission has authority under the laws of the state of Washington to fulfill the federal requirements necessary to qualify for an urban planning assistance grant under § 701 of the Housing Act of 1954.

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

                                                                   March 4, 1959

Honorable H. Dewayne Kreager, Director
Commerce and Economic Development
General Administration Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 19

Dear Sir:

            This is in answer to your request for the opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Does the Vancouver-Clark County regional planning commission have the authority under the laws of the state of Washington to fulfill the federal requirements necessary to qualify for an urban planning assistance grant under § 701 of the Housing Act of 1954?

            We answer your question in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            This office has previously had occasion to issue an opinion to the department of commerce and economic development on December 10, 1957, (AGO 57-58 No. 140) in which we ruled that the department of commerce and economic development is the official state planning agency for administering grants under § 701 of the Housing Act of 1954, by virtue of chapters 157 and 215, Laws of 1957, and is authorized to perform all planning work in all municipalities, counties, town, townships, metropolitan and regional areas.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            As we understand the facts in your case, a regional planning commission has been established in your area consisting of the city of Vancouver and Clark county, and although the term "applicant" is used throughout the body of this opinion to refer to the regional planning commission, the formal application for federal funds under § 701 of the Housing Act of 1954 will be made by and through the department of commerce and economic development.  The regional planning commission in question was organized pursuant to RCW 35.63.070 (§ 1, chapter 130, Laws of 1957).  The provisions of that act are as follows:

            "The commissions of two or more adjoining counties, of two or more adjacent cities and towns, of one or more cities and towns and/or one or more counties, together with the boards of such counties and the councils of such cities and towns may cooperate to form, organize and administer a regional planning commission for the making of a regional plan for the region defined as may be agreed upon by the commissions, boards and councils.  The regional commission when requested by the commissions of its region, may further perform any of the other duties for its region that are specified in RCW 35.63.060 for city and county commissions.  The number of members of a regional commission, their method of appointment and the proportion of the cost of regional planning, surveys and studies to be borne respectively by the various counties and cities in the region, shall be such as may be agreed upon by commissions, boards and councils.

            "Any regional planning commission, or the councils or boards respectively of any city, town, or county, are authorized to receive grants-in-aid from the government of the United States or of any of its agencies, and are authorized to enter into any reasonable agreement with any department or agency of the government of the United States to arrange for the receipt of federal funds for planning in the interest of furthering the planning program."

            Pursuant to that act, an agreement was entered into between the Vancouver planning commission, the Clark county planning commission, the board of county commissioners of Clark county, and the Vancouver city council, whereby a regional planning system for the area was organized and established.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The specific powers and duties of such a commission, authorized under RCW 35.63.070,supra, are set forth in detail in RCW 35.63.060, as follows:

            "The commission may act as the research and fact finding agency of the municipality.  To that end it may make such surveys, analyses, researches and reports as are generally authorized or requested by its council or board, or by the state council with the approval of its council or board.  The commission, upon such request or authority may also:

            "(1) Make inquiries, investigations, and surveys concerning the resources of the county;

            "(2) Assemble and analyze the data thus obtained and formulate plans for the conservation of such resources and the systematic utilization and development thereof;

            "(3) Make recommendations from time to time as to the best methods of such conservation, utilization, and development;

            "(4) Cooperate with other commissions, with the state council and with other public agencies of the municipality, state and United States in such planning, conservation, and development; and

            "(5) In particular cooperate with and aid the state council within its territorial limits in the preparation of the state master plan and in advance planning of public works programs."

            It is clear therefore that pursuant to the statute cited above, the Vancouver-Clark county regional planning commission is an official regional planning agency and is qualified to be an applicant for a federal grant under the authority of RCW 35.63.070, supra.

            The regional planning commission in question is specifically empowered under state statutes and the resolution of the county commissioners of Clark county to perform the planning work in the regional area.  Under the authority of RCW 35.63.060,supra, the regional planning commission is authorized to do all the planning work contemplated by the federal law,  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] including surveys, land use studies, urban renewal plans, technical services and other planning work.  In addition, as created by the agreement in question, the planning agency is empowered to fulfill the obligations imposed by the federal government under the grant contract which prescribes the terms and conditions thereof.

            The agreement in question makes provision for the regional planning commission to have available a portion of the cost of the planning work not covered by the federal grant.  In addition to the foregoing questions which the federal government has requested that you submit to this office for an opinion, the following related questions have been proposed:

            1.         and 2. Is applicant authorized to contract in its own name and with the federal government for planning grants under § 701?

            RCW 35.63.070 specifically authorizes any planning commission to receive a grant-in-aid from the government of the United States or any of its agencies; and to enter into any reasonable agreement with any department or agency of the federal government to arrange for the receipt of federal funds.  Accordingly, the planning commission is specifically authorized to contract with the federal government in its own name.

            3.         Is applicant authorized to expend donations and grants as well as funds appropriated or received from local sources, especially if the statute contains a provision limiting the payment of expenditures to funds appropriated or received from local public bodies?

            There is no provision in the statute which restricts the payment of expenditures to funds appropriated or received from local public bodies.  In addition, section X of the Resolution creating the planning commission provides that the regional planning commission may receive gifts, grants or donations and disburse such funds for planning purposes.

            4.         Does the statute sufficiently define the area over which a planning body may exercise planning powers, or does it provide adequate standards or tests for delineating such an area?

            The provisions of RCW 35.63.070, supra, which provide for the creation of regional planning commissions such as the one in question authorize such a commission to consist of two or more adjoining counties, of two or more adjacent cities and towns, of one or more cities and towns and/or  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] one or more counties.  Thus, the statute specifically defines the area over which such a planning commission may exercise its powers, depending upon the political subdivisions or municipalities which compose the regional planning commission in question.

            5.         Is the area of the proposed planning assistance project a metropolitan or regional area within the meaning of state law?  Does a state law require that a metropolitan or regional area be a contiguous area for planning purposes?

            The regional planning commission in question consists of a city, Vancouver, and a county, and clearly comes within the meaning of the words "regional planning commission" under the statute.  The guide to the second portion of the question is that the statute requires that any commission consisting of counties must consist of adjoining counties, or if cities organize a commission, they must be adjacent cities, although the act does not specifically require that the regional area be a contiguous area for planning purposes, such construction is consistent with the general purpose of the act, i.e. planning.  Accordingly, when a city and a county combine to form a regional planning commission they necessarily must be contiguous.

            6.         What, if any, concurrences or approvals of state or local officials or bodies are prerequisite to the applicant creating contractual obligations?

            In the present instance, the statute specifically authorizes the regional planning commission, once it has been created, to enter into any reasonable agreement with any department or agency of the federal government.  It would therefore appear that the concurrence of local officials or state officials is not a prerequisite to the creation of contractual obligations under the agreement in question.  (See also AGO 57-58 No. 140 [[Department of Commerce and Economic Development on December 10, 1957]].)

            7.         If applicant has been created by the joint action of two or more public bodies: (a) is the agreement or other instrument creating it and defining its powers and jurisdiction in accord with law?

            The agreement creating the Vancouver-Clark county regional planning commission which has been created by the joint action of the two planning commissions in question and the board of county commissioners and the Vancouver city council, is in accord with and authorized under the pertinent state statutes, supra.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            (b) Are the powers, functions and territorial jurisdiction set forth in such agreement authorized by law?

            It is the opinion of this office that the powers, functions, etc., set forth in the agreement are legally authorized.

            (c) Does the right to withdraw or failure to continue participation in such joint endeavor adversely affect the powers of applicant or its contracts?

            Resolution M-537 adopted by the city of Vancouver, Clark county and the respective planning agencies contains a specific agreement that none of the agencies establishing the planning commission will dissolve said commission while any contract or agreement exists between the state of Washington or the federal government and the Vancouver-Clark county regional planning commission.  Accordingly, it appears that none of the parties involved in the regional planning commission has the authority to withdraw during the existence of any such contract or agreement.

            (d) Is applicant authorized to do planning work for an area outside the territorial limits of the participating local bodies (if the document setting forth its area of operations so provides)?

            The agreement in question does not authorize the regional planning commission to do planning work for an area without the territorial limits of the participating local bodies.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

JANE DOWDLE SMITH
Assistant Attorney General

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