OPTIONAL MUNICIPAL CODE ‑- CITIES AND TOWNS ‑- ADOPTION OF FORM OF GOVERNMENT
Under RCW 35A.06.030, a city which previously adopted the optional municipal code together with one of the plans of government thereby authorized for noncharter code cities may change to another plan authorized for noncharter code cities any time after one year from the date of becoming a noncharter code city.
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July 25, 1973
Honorable Don L. Talley
State Senator, 18th District
1583 Mt. Pleasant Road
Kelso, Washington 98626
Cite as: AGLO 1973 No. 80
This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion on a question pertaining to the city of Kelso and its plan of government. You have asked when, in point of time, Kelso may submit to its voters a proposal to change from its present council-manager form of government to some other plan authorized by the optional municipal code.
We respond to this question in the manner set forth in the following analysis:
According to the materials which accompanied your request the city of Kelso, at that time a third-class city operating under the council-manager plan of government provided for in chapter 35.18 RCW, on December 12, 1969, adopted the following ordinance:
"Notwithstanding anything contained in this Code of Ordinances to the contrary, the City of Kelso, Washington, hereby adopts the classification of a noncharter code city operating under the council-manager plan of government as set forth in Chapter 35A.13 of the Revised Code of Washington . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)
Accord, the authority granted by RCW 35A.02.030, codifying § 35A.02.030, chapter 119, Laws of 1967, Ex. Sess., the "optional municipal code." At the present time, however, at least certain members of the city council are [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] interested in initiating a change from this plan of government to the other plan authorized for noncharter code cities; namely, the mayor-council plan provided for in chapter 35A.12 RCW. See AGO 1970 No. 5 [[to Municipal Research Council on February 17, 1970]], copy enclosed. Your question asks for our opinion as to when, in point of time, this change can legally be made.
The answer, in our judgment, is to be found in the final sentence of RCW 35A.06.030, the full text of which reads as follows:
"By use of the resolution for election or petition for election methods described in RCW 35A.06.040, any noncharter code city which has operated for more than six years under one of the optional plans of government authorized by this title, may abandon such organization and may either adopt another plan of government authorized for noncharter code cities, or may adopt a plan of government authorized by the general law for municipalities of the highest class for which the population of such city qualifies it, or authorized for the class to which such city belonged immediately prior to becoming a noncharter code city, if any. When a noncharter code city adopts a plan of government other than those authorized for noncharter code cities, such city ceases to be governed under this optional municipal code and shall be classified as a city or town of the class selected in the proceeding for adoption of such new plan, with the powers granted to such class under the general law. Any city is authorized to adopt any plan of government provided for noncharter code cities any time after one year from the date of becoming a noncharter code city." (Emphasis supplied.)
The underscored sentence, it is to be noted, was not a part of the original, 1967, code but was rather added by amendment in 1971. See § 13, chapter 251, Laws of 1971, Ex. Sess., which became effective when signed by the governor on May 21, 1971. Previously, the statute had required a city adopting the status of a noncharter code city under RCW 35A.02.030, supra, with one of the optional plans of government provided for by the code, to stay with that plan for at least six years before either adopting another plan authorized by the code or returning to one of [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] the plans authorized by ". . . the general law for municipalities . . ." as set forth in the preexisting provisions of Title 35 RCW. With this 1971 amendment, however, it is now possible for any city operating under the code, including one which previously adopted one of the two plans provided for noncharter code cities upon coming under the code, to adopt any plan (in this case, the other plan) provided for noncharter code cities ". . . any time after one year from the date of becoming a noncharter code city."
From this it follows that since the city of Kelso has currently been operating as a noncharter code city for nearly four years, more than two of which have transpired since the effective date of the critical 1971 amendment to RCW 35A.06.030, supra, that city may now or at any time hereafter initiate proceedings to change its plan of government from the council-manager plan provided for in chapter 35A.13 RCW to the mayor-council plan provided for in chapter 35A.12 RCW; becuase of this 1971 amendment it no longer need have operated for at least six years under the plan which it adopted upon becoming a noncharter code city in December of 1969 in order to make this change.1/
We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours
PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General
*** FOOTNOTES ***
1/For a general resume of procedures to be followed in making this change, we are enclosing herewith a copy of AGLO 1973 No. 8, which was written to the municipal research council on January l2 of this year.