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AGLO 1971 No. 67 -
Attorney General Slade Gorton

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                                                                   April 28, 1971
Honorable Edward C. Beeksma
Prosecuting Attorney
Island County Court House
Coupeville, Washington 98239                                                                 Cite as:  AGLO 1971 No. 67 (not official)
Dear Sir:
            This is written in response to your recent letter regarding the procedures to be followed for the appointment of a county director of planning under RCW 36.70.030.
            The statute which you have cited is a part of the county planning enabling act, chapter 201, Laws of 1959, presently codified as chapter 36.70 RCW.  Section 1 of this act (RCW 36.70.010) sets forth its purpose and intent as follows:
            "The purpose and intent of this chapter is to provide the authority for, and the procedures to be followed in, guiding and regulating the physical development of a county or region through correlating both public and private projects and coordinating their execution with respect to all subject matters utilized in developing and servicing land, all to the end of assuring the highest standards of environment for living, and the operation of commerce, industry, agriculture and recreation, and assuring maximum economies and conserving the highest degree of public health, safety, morals and welfare."
            Under the act, there are two alternative methods provided for by which a county may establish a planning agency.  The first of these methods is set forth in RCW 36.70.030, to which you have referred, as follows:
            "By ordinance a board may create a planning commission and provide for the appointment by the commission of a director of planning."
             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
            The second method of creating a county planning agency is provided for in RCW 36.70.040, as follows:
            "By ordinance a board may, as an alternative to and in lieu of the creation of a planning commission as provided in RCW 36.70.030, create a planning department which shall be organized and function as any other department of the county.  When such department is created, the board shall also create a planning commission which shall assist the planning department in carrying out its duties, including assistance in the preparation and execution of the comprehensive plan and recommendations to the department for the adoption of official controls and/or amendments thereto.  To this end, the planning commission shall conduct such hearings as are required by this chapter and shall make findings and conclusions therefrom which shall be transmitted to the department which shall transmit the same on to the board with such comments and recommendations it deems necessary."
            In light of these two alternative provisions, your specific question may now be noted.  You ask:
            ". . . whether the County Commissioners may reserve the right in the ordinance establishing the Planning Commission to either appoint the Planning Director themselves, or to reserve the right of approval of the Planning Director to be appointed by the Planning Commission."
            In answer to this question, we would call your attention to RCW 36.70.160, which relates, specifically, to the appointment of a planning director and provides as follows:
            "If a director of planning is provided for, he shall be appointed:
            "(1) By the commission when a commission is created under RCW 36.70.030;
            "(2) If a planning department is established as provided in RCW 36.70.040, then he shall be appointed by the board."
            Notably, the term "board" as used in subsection (2) of this statute is defined by RCW 36.70.020 as meaning ". . . the board of county commissioners."
             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
            Therefore, it will be seen that the method of appointing a director of planning in a particular county will depend upon which of the two alternative means of establishing a planning agency the board of county commissioners has chosen to utilize.  If a planning commission is provided for by ordinance under RCW 36.70.030, the director is to be appointed by the planning commission; on the other hand, if a planning department is established under RCW 36.70.040, then the director of planning is to be appointed by the board of county commissioners.
            It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
Philip H. Austin
Deputy Attorney General