Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1952 No. 237 -
Attorney General Smith Troy


The proposed site for the state office building one block from Capitol Place is adjacent to the present Capitol grounds.

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                                                                February 13, 1952

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                   Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 237

Dear Sir:

            Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of February 11, 1952, in which you request our opinion as to whether property lying east of Capitol Way between Washington and Franklin Streets and Union and Eleventh Avenues would qualify under chapter 22, Laws of 1951, as a building site for a new state office building authorized therein.

            It is our conclusion that the tract referred to, while not actually in contact with the existing Capitol grounds, is adjacent thereto and would qualify for selection under chapter 22, Laws of 1951.


            Chapter 22, Laws of 1951, provides for a bond issue with which to finance erection of a new office building at Olympia.  Section 7 of that statute reads in part:

            "Proceeds of the bonds issued hereunder shall be expended by the state capitol committee in the selection and acquisition, by purchase or condemnation of suitable groundsadjacent to the present capitol grounds in the construction  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] thereon of a modern office‑type building and in furnishing the same.  Said building shall be of reinforced concrete construction, but devoid of stone facing or decorative features.  * * *"  (Emphasis supplied)

            The statutory requirement for the location of the building is that it be "adjacent to the present Capitol grounds".

            The property about which you inquire is approximately one block from the northeast corner of the tract known as Capitol Place, which is generally known as the Capitol grounds.  There is other state owned property nearly contiguous to the tract in question.  That is the site of the present State Printing Plant.  However, it probably is not ordinarily thought of as a part of the Capitol grounds.  The question is whether a tract approximately one block from the Capitol grounds may be considered as adjacent thereto.  The word adjacent is defined in Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition, page 32, as follows:

            "Lying near, close, or contiguous; neighboring; bordering on; as, a field adjacent to the highway.  * * * Objects are adjacent when they lie close to each other, but not necessarily in actual contact; as, adjacent fields, villages.  They are adjoining when they meet at some line or point of junction; as, adjoining farms, estates adjoining the river.  * * *"

            It will be seen from this definition that there is a difference between the terms "adjacent" and "adjoining."  Thus, an object is adjacent when it is close to another, but not necessarily in actual contact.  The effect given to the term by the courts is shown by the definition of the word "adjacent" in Black's Law Dictionary, 4th Edition, page 62, which is as follows:

            "Lying near or close to; sometimes, contiguous; neighboring.  Ex parte Jeffcoat, 108 Fla. 207, 146 So. 827.  Adjacent implies that the two objects are not widely separated, though they may not actually touch,Harrison v. Guilford County, 218 N.C. 718, 12 S.E. 2d 269, while adjoining imports that they are so joined or united to each other that no third object intervenes.  Wolfe v. Hurley, D.C. La., 46 F.2d 515, 521.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "A word of flexible meaning, depending upon context and subject matter.  U.S. v. Denver & R. G. Ry. Co., D. C. Colo., 31 F. 886; Johnston v. Davenport Brick & Tile Co., D. C. Iowa, 237 F. 668, 669.  * * *"

            The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the case ofBrotherhood Inv. Co., v. Coal River Min. Co., 46 F. (2d) 976, in holding that a piece of land separated from another by a distance of approximately a thousand feet was "adjacent" to it quoted with approval from Hanifen v. Armitage, 117 Fed. 845, 851, as follows:

            "'The word "adjacent," even in its strictest sense, means no more than lying near, close or contiguous, but not actually touching.  There are degrees of nearness, and, when you want to express the idea that a thing is immediately adjacent, you have to say so.'"

            Numerous cases to the same effect will be found in Words and Phrases, Permanent Edition, Volume 3, beginning at page 379.  Thus, the legislature having used the term "adjacent" in setting up the requirements for locating the new building does not require that the site be actually contiguous to the present Capitol grounds, but has used terminology which will be complied with if the site is in the immediate vicinity.  We believe that a site one block from the present Capitol grounds would meet the requirement of being adjacent to those grounds.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General