Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1984 No. 12 -
Attorney General Ken Eikenberry


RCW 53.04.080, relating to annexation by a public port district, does not authorize such a district to annex noncontiguous (or nonadjacent) territory located elsewhere within the county. 

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

                                                                   April 23, 1984 

Honorable Lowell Peterson
St. Sen., 40th District
1632 Peterson Road
Burlington, WA 98233

Cite as:  AGO 1984 No. 12                                                                                                                

 Dear Senator Peterson:

             By recent letter you asked whether a public port district, the boundaries of which are not coextensive with those of its county, may annex noncontiguous (or nonadjacent) territory located elsewhere within the county.

             We respond in the negative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.


             As you have pointed out in your letter, the statute which governs annexations by port districts in this state is RCW 53.04.080.  And, as you have also noted, that statute is silent on the question of whether or not the territory being annexed must be contiguous, or adjacent, to the annexing district.  RCW 53.04.080 simply provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

             "At any general election or at any special election which may be called for that purpose the board of county commissioners of any county in this state in which there exists a port district which is not coextensive with the limits of the county, shall on petition of the commissioners of such port district, by resolution, submit to the voters residing within the limits of any territory which the existing port district desires to annex or include in its enlarged port district, the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] proposition of enlarging the limits of such existing port districts so as to include therein the whole of the territory embraced within the boundaries of such county, or such territory as may be described in said petition by legal subdivisions. . . ."

             In our opinion, however, that very silence on the issue necessitates a negative answer to your question.

             While our research has disclosed no Washington cases directly in point, it appears to be well settled in other jurisdictions that a municipal corporation or taxing district may annex noncontiguous territory only where it has been granted direct, express, statutory authority to do so.  See,e.g.,Ridings v. City of Owensboro, Kentucky, 383 S.W.2d 510 (1964) and authorities cited therein.  Township of Genesee v. Genesee County, 369 Mich. 592, 120 N.W.2d 759 (1963); andMcGraw v. Merryman, 133 Maryland 247, 104 Atl. 540 (1918); and see also, McQuillan,Municipal Corporations, § 7.20 (page 357); and 37 Wash.L.Rev. 404, Annexation by Municipal Corporations (1962), at page 406.

             In addition, that same principle is implicit in prior opinions of this office.  For example, in a letter opinion dated April 14, 1969 to then State Senator Don Talley, copy enclosed, we approved of a proposed annexation of territory contiguous to the Kelso Municipal Airport because the airport property was, in turn, contiguous to the City of Kelso itself.  The clear inference to be drawn from that analysis, however, is that in the absence of the intervening and connecting strip the question there posed would have been answered in the negative.

             There are, of course, various statutes now in effect in our state which meet the foregoing test byexpressly authorizing particular municipal corporations to annex noncontiguous territory‑-ordinarily for certain specific purposes.  See,e.g., RCW 35.13.180, relating to cities and towns, which reads as follows:

             "City and town councils of second and third class cities and towns may by a majority vote annex new territory outside the city or town limits,whether contiguous or noncontiguous for park, cemetery, or other municipal purposes when such territory is owned by the city or town or all of the owners of the real property in the territory give their written consent to the annexation."  (Emphasis supplied)

              [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            RCW 53.04.080,supra, is not, however, one of those statutes.  Therefore, based upon the foregoing authorities, we would regard a requirement of contiguity as being implicit in the statute as it now stands.

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

 Very truly yours,
Attorney General 

Senior Deputy Attorney General