Smith v. Spokane County

In Smith v. Spokane County, 89 Wn. App. 340, 948 P.2d 1301 (1997), a class of citizens challenged fees imposed on water and sewer customers within a certain aquifer protection area. Discussing Covell and other cases dealing with the regulation of water and sewage, the Court of Appeals explained: Additionally, when one compares the facts of this case to the facts of other cases which determined whether fees imposed by governmental entities were regulatory fees or taxes, it is clear that the charges at hand are regulatory fees. In Covell, the court determined that a city ordinance imposing a street utility charge was a tax. The City of Seattle imposed a fee to residents in order to construct, maintain, operate and preserve streets. The court determined that the charges were for the purpose of funding and did not directly relate to any service. In Thurston County Rental Owners Ass'n v. Thurston County, 85 Wn. App. 171, 178-79, 931 P.2d 208 (1997), Division Two held that the County's imposition of permit fees for the construction of septic systems was a regulatory fee. The County required permits for construction of septic systems in order to protect the groundwater. In that case the court determined that the fees were part of a plan to regulate septic systems. In Hillis 105 Wn.2d 288, 714 P.2d 1163, the court held that a connection charge to the city's water system was a regulatory fee. The court determined in that case that the charge was part of an overall plan to regulate the use of water. In Teter, a fee was imposed on property owners to finance flood control operations. In that case the court determined that the charges related to regulation and control of storm and surface waters. As a result, the court determined that the charges were regulatory fees. In Hillis Homes, Inc. v. Snohomish County, 97 Wn.2d 804, 805-06, 650 P.2d 193 (1982), a fee was imposed on new residential subdivisions for parks, schools, roads, and fire protection. In that case, the court determined that the charges were unconstitutional taxes. The court found that the charges were not imposed for any regulatory purpose. The case at hand is much analogous to Thurston, Hillis, 105 Wn.2d 288, and Teter. The charge at issue in all of these cases dealt with water or septic system regulation." Thurston and Teter did not impose charges which were based upon water or septic usage. All of the charges benefited the public by furnishing clean drinking water. Smith, 89 Wn. App. at 351-52.