Chapter 17.20
WAIVER OF SIX-YEAR
DEVELOPMENT MORATORIUM

Sections:

17.20.010    Title.

17.20.020    Authority.

17.20.030    Purpose.

17.20.040    Definitions.

17.20.050    Class IV general forest practices.

17.20.060    Moratorium.

17.20.070    Rescission of moratorium.

17.20.080    Request for waiver of moratorium.

17.20.090    Appeals to Hearing Examiner – Authority to waive moratorium.

17.20.100    Request to lift moratorium.

17.20.105    Reconsideration and appeal – Authority to lift moratorium.

17.20.107    Administration.

17.20.110    Enforcement authority.

17.20.120    Repealed.

17.20.125    Restoration orders.

17.20.130    Violations – Penalties.

17.20.140    Conflict with other regulations.

17.20.150    Effective date.

17.20.010 Title.

The ordinance codified in this chapter shall be known and may be cited as “Forest Practices.” [Ord. 16-052 § 1, 4-5-16.]

17.20.020 Authority.

The 1997 Legislature adopted changes to the Washington State Forest Practices Act in Substitute Bill 5714. These changes became effective on July 27, 1997. The bill allows local governments to regulate conversions of forest land to nonforestry use. Local governments were required to adopt ordinances that equal or exceed the state forest practice’s resource protection rules and regulations by December 31, 2001. Chapter 76.09 RCW provides the authority and the requirements for local government involvement in state forest practice activities. This chapter establishes the criteria for establishment, and full or partial removal of development moratoria. All applications under this chapter shall be made to the Cowlitz County Building and Planning Department. The Director or his/her designee shall administer, interpret, and enforce the provisions of this chapter and shall provide such forms and establish such procedures as may be necessary to administer this chapter. [Ord. 16-052 § 2, 4-5-16.]

17.20.030 Purpose.

This chapter is establishes the minimum standards and requirements associated with local government review and jurisdiction over applicable forest practices and establishes local procedures for forest practice related development moratoria in accordance with the Washington State Forest Practices Act (Chapter 76.09 RCW). [Ord. 16-052 § 3, 4-5-16.]

17.20.040 Definitions.

Except as provided otherwise in this section, this chapter will use existing definitions which are already in common use regarding the subject of forest practices. This shall include all the definitions contained in the Washington State Forest Practices Act (RCW 76.09.020), Rules for the Washington State Forest Practices Act (Chapter 222-16 WAC), and Cowlitz County Codes.

“Aggrieved person” means one who is directly affected by the approval, denial or conditioning of a development permit, and has financial interest in the property upon which the development permit is requested.

“Conversion of forest lands or forest land conversion” includes any Class IV general forest practice as defined by RCW 76.09.050. Also included are Class I forest practices consisting of timber harvesting or road construction, and which are not directly associated with and supportive of commercial forest product production. In general terms, forest land conversion refers to the cutting and removal of trees for the purpose of converting forest land to nonforestry use.

“Developed property” means property which is used for purposes other than commercial forest production. Developed property includes land which has been graded, landscaped or built upon. Any portion of property which has been altered as described herein shall be considered to be “developed property” for purposes of this chapter.

“Development proposal” means any activity relating to the use and/or development of land requiring a permit or approval from the Cowlitz County Department of Building and Planning.

“Director” means the Cowlitz County Director of Building and Planning, or an authorized designee.

“Forest land” means all land which is capable of supporting a merchantable stand of timber and is not being actively used for a use which is incompatible with timber growing.

“Hearing Examiner” means the Cowlitz County Hearing Examiner, appointed by the Cowlitz County Board of County Commissioners pursuant to Chapter 2.05 CCC.

“Moratorium” means no other uses permitted on a parcel except any Class II, Class III and Class IV special forest practices as defined by RCW 76.09.050. In general terms, the moratorium permits only the cutting and removal of trees after which the property is retained in commercial forest production for six years. The moratorium is not applicable to Class I or Class IV general forest practices.

“Notice of continuing forest land obligation” means form DNR QQ-42, or as hereafter amended, available from the Department of Natural Resources.

“Undeveloped property” means property which does not meet the definition of “developed property.” [Ord. 16-052 § 4, 4-5-16.]

17.20.050 Class IV general forest practices.

A. State and Local Approval. Pursuant to Chapter 76.09 RCW, Cowlitz County is designated as lead agency for compliance with the State Environmental Policy Act for the purpose of Class IV general forest practices. Accordingly, a SEPA threshold determination is required to be obtained from Cowlitz County prior to obtaining a Class IV general forest practice permit from the Department of Natural Resources. Acquiring county permits does not alleviate the applicant from required permitting from other local and state agencies.

B. Application Filing.

1. Applications for a SEPA threshold determination shall be reviewed pursuant to the standards of this chapter and Chapter 19.11 CCC, Environmental Policy.

2. Application materials shall include those required by Chapter 19.11 CCC as well as CCC 17.20.107.

C. General Requirements.

1. An application for SEPA threshold determination shall be submitted prior to conducting forest practices on site.

2. Class IV general forest practices shall comply with all applicable provisions of Cowlitz County Code.

3. All applications relevant to the proposed forest practice activity shall be submitted prior to issuance of the SEPA threshold determination.

4. Class IV general forest practices shall comply with any conditions of approval established through the associated development permit or approval. [Ord. 16-052 § 5, 4-5-16.]

17.20.060 Moratorium.

A. Applicability. The applicability of six-year development moratoria pursuant to Chapter 76.09 RCW shall be as follows:

1. Class I forest practices shall not be subject to a six-year development moratorium when conducted in accordance with Chapter 76.09 RCW and its rules.

2. Class IV general forest practices approved by Cowlitz County shall not be subject to a six-year development moratorium when conducted in accordance with this title and all associated conditions of approval imposed on associated permits.

3. Class II, III or IV special forest practices shall result in the imposition of a six-year development moratorium.

4. Any forest practice conditioned in violation of Chapter 76.09 RCW or its rules, and/or this title, including failure to comply with the conditions of an approved forest practices or related development permit or failure to obtain required forest practices permits or approvals, shall result in the imposition of a six-year development moratorium.

B. Consequences of a Development Moratorium.

1. Except as provided in subsection D of this section and CCC 17.20.080 and 17.20.100, Cowlitz County shall not accept applications for any development of land that is subject to a six-year development moratorium.

2. In those cases where a development moratorium is imposed on a parcel that is subject to pending development applications, Cowlitz County shall immediately cease to review the applications. The county shall provide notice of moratorium to the applicant prior to denial of applications, and shall allow the applicant 30 days from the date of the notice to resolve whether or not to proceed with the timber harvest triggering the development moratorium.

3. All development moratoria imposed by Cowlitz County shall extend to the harvest area, including any associated roadway construction, indicated in the forest practices permit. If no forest practices permit was issued, or a condition of approval of a Class IV general permit is violated, the moratorium shall apply to the entire parcel.

C. Effective Date of Moratorium.

1. The six-year development moratorium shall be imposed from the effective date of the applicable Class II, Class III, or Class IV special forest practice permit.

2. If forest practices occur on a site without the appropriate permit, a six-year development moratorium shall be imposed from the date the unpermitted forest practices were documented by Cowlitz County or DNR.

3. Where the site is subject to an approved forest practices permit, forest practices occurring at the site which are outside the scope of the approved permit shall be considered unpermitted forest practices for moratorium purposes. In these cases, a six-year development moratorium shall be imposed from the date the unpermitted forest practices were documented by Cowlitz County or DNR.

D. Allowable Activities. The following activities shall be allowed on any parcel that is subject to a development moratorium:

1. Boundary line adjustment between legal lots of record established prior to the effective date of moratorium, provided the proposed boundary line adjustment meets the minimum lot size requirements established by Chapter 18.10 CCC or as hereafter amended. A notice of continuing forest land obligation shall be recorded with the County Auditor’s Office at the time of boundary line adjustment.

2. Repair or remodeling within the existing footprint of existing structures.

3. Reconstruction of a structure damaged or destroyed due to natural or accidental cause, when otherwise compliant with the Cowlitz County Land Use Ordinance, Chapter 18.10 CCC.

4. Critical area and/or shoreline permits may be submitted, reviewed and approved to address any environmental mitigation work necessary to address violations on the parcel. [Ord. 16-052 § 6, 4-5-16.]

17.20.070 Rescission of moratorium.

Upon written request of the property owner, the moratorium may be rescinded by the Director if an approved forest practices application has been either withdrawn or expired, and no harvest in reliance upon such approval has taken place under Chapter 76.09 RCW. Documentation to support such request shall be provided by the property owner from the Department of Natural Resources. [Ord. 16-052 § 7, 4-5-16.]

17.20.080 Request for waiver of moratorium.

A. Authority. The Director may waive the six-year development moratorium for the purpose of allowing an applicant to construct a single-family residence or outbuildings, or both, on a legal lot and building site, subject to the conditions imposed by the Director and the applicant’s compliance with all local regulations and ordinances. In developing the conditions, the Director shall consider comments of other agencies with expertise.

B. General Requirements.

1. The applicant may request a waiver of moratorium by submitting the application materials identified in CCC 17.20.107. The Director may request additional information as necessary to complete review.

2. The area that is permitted to be developed pursuant to the waiver of moratorium shall not exceed one acre in size.

3. The development moratorium shall remain in effect for all other nonforestry uses of the site.

4. A single waiver of moratorium may be issued for a parcel during a six-year development moratorium.

C. Review Criteria. One single-family dwelling, associated permitted accessory structures, septic system, well, lawn, landscaped area, and access roadway may be constructed on land subject to a moratorium; provided, that:

1. The harvest and reforestation of the property shall have been conducted under an approved forest practices application in compliance with the State Forest Practices Act.

2. Compliance with the State Environmental Policy Act has been achieved.

3. Compliance with the Cowlitz County Shoreline Master Program has been achieved, if applicable.

4. The landowner mitigates any damage to critical areas resulting from the forest practices in accordance with the requirements set forth in the Cowlitz County Critical Areas Ordinance, Chapter 19.15 CCC. The mitigation requirement shall apply to the entire parcel, including those areas outside of the maximum one acre exception area set forth in the request.

5. The location of the development area shall take into consideration long-term forest management goals.

D. The Director may authorize, conditionally authorize, or deny an application to waive the six-year moratorium upon review of the application and subject to the provisions of this chapter. The waiver shall include any applicable conditions of approval. Findings shall include:

1. The waiver of moratorium will not be detrimental to the public health, safety and general welfare.

2. The waiver of moratorium will not result in significant adverse environmental impacts.

3. The granting of waiver of moratorium is consistent with the review criteria established in subsection C of this section.

4. The waiver of moratorium is consistent and compatible with the goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan, Land Use Ordinance, and provisions of this title.

E. Failure to comply with any conditions of approval will result in rescission of the waiver and reinstatement of the moratorium for a total of six years from the time of the original forest practice application.

F. The decision to waive the six-year moratorium may be appealed by any aggrieved person. Any interpretation or decision made by the Director in the administration of this chapter is final and conclusive unless appealed to the Cowlitz County Hearing Examiner in accordance with CCC 17.20.090. [Ord. 16-052 § 8, 4-5-16.]

17.20.090 Appeals to Hearing Examiner – Authority to waive moratorium.

An appeal of a decision of the Director in the administration of this chapter shall be made to the Cowlitz County Hearing Examiner. Each appeal must be filed in writing with the Department within 20 working days from the date on which the decision was issued, with the first day being the day after the decision is issued.

A. The written appeal shall include a detailed explanation stating the reasons for the appeal.

B. Upon filing of an appeal with appropriate fee, the Director shall set a public hearing before the Hearing Examiner, with findings and documentation relating to the application or other administrative actions. The Director may prepare a separate staff report and recommendation for presentation to the Hearing Examiner.

C. Such appeal shall be heard at a public hearing. The Director shall cause notices, containing information about the appeal, the location of the property, and the date, time, and place of the public hearing, to be published in a newspaper of general circulation, and the subject property shall be posted at least 10 days prior to the hearing.

D. Following the public hearing, the Hearing Examiner shall determine if the decision should be upheld or reversed, based on a record of findings to support that decision. All findings shall be available to the public upon request no more than 10 days after the hearing. The decision of the Hearing Examiner on an appeal, once received by the Department, shall be mailed to the applicant within five working days. Such decision is final unless appealed to Superior Court in accordance with the rules of the Court. [Ord. 16-052 § 9, 4-5-16.]

17.20.100 Request to lift moratorium.

The Hearing Examiner may consider requests to lift development moratorium established for an entire parcel pursuant to CCC 17.20.060 under certain circumstances.

A. General Requirements.

1. The applicant may request a lift of moratorium by submitting the application materials identified in CCC 17.20.107. The Director may request additional information as necessary to complete review.

2. No final approvals including, but not limited to, final inspection on any and all building permit applications, final short subdivision approval, final subdivision approval, and/or final site plan approval may be granted for activities located on parcel(s) which are subject to a six-year development moratorium unless, and until, a request to lift the six-year development moratorium has been granted by the Hearing Examiner and all other required permits, including but not limited to grading, stormwater and forest practices, have been approved.

B. Public Hearing Required. The Department shall set a date before the Hearing Examiner following receipt of all required information set forth in CCC 17.20.107. The public hearing shall be conducted in accordance with the procedures set forth in Chapter 2.05 CCC and CCC 18.10.295.

C. Review Criteria. The Examiner shall consider the lifting of development moratorium established pursuant to this chapter when the following criteria are met:

1. All forest conversions shall comply with the State Environmental Policy Act.

2. It must be clear that the person seeking to lift the development moratorium complied with all applicable county regulations or that the application can be conditioned to ensure compliance with county regulations.

3. If critical areas or critical area buffers have been damaged, the critical areas and buffers shall be restored as required by the Cowlitz County Critical Areas Ordinance, Chapter 19.15 CCC. Additionally, the Examiner may impose increased critical area buffer standards together with additional requirements to mitigate the damage beyond that specified in Chapter 19.15 CCC when it is determined that such additional action is necessary to adequately address the damage caused by the forest practice activity.

4. The lifting of the development moratorium is consistent with the goals and policies of the Cowlitz County Comprehensive Plan, Cowlitz County Shoreline Master Program (if applicable), Land Use Ordinance, and all other applicable provisions of Cowlitz County Code.

5. All corrective actions needed to bring the site into compliance with county requirements must be completed prior to final development permit approval.

6. Lifting the moratorium is valid only for the specific land use proposed.

7. Lifting the moratorium does not guarantee issuance of other necessary development permits required by Cowlitz County for the land use proposed.

D. The Hearing Examiner may authorize, conditionally authorize, or deny an application to waive the six-year moratorium upon review of the application and subject to the provisions of this chapter. The lift shall include any applicable conditions of approval. Findings shall include:

1. The lift of moratorium will not be detrimental to the public health, safety and general welfare.

2. The lift of moratorium will not result in significant adverse environmental impacts.

3. The lift of moratorium is consistent with the review criteria established in subsection C of this section.

4. The lift of moratorium is consistent and compatible with the goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan, Land Use Ordinance, and provisions of this title.

E. Failure to comply with any conditions of approval will result in rescission of the lift and reinstatement of the moratorium for a total of six years from the time of the original forest practice application. [Ord. 16-052 § 10, 4-5-16.]

17.20.105 Reconsideration and appeal – Authority to lift moratorium.

Any aggrieved person or agency who disagrees with the decision of the Hearing Examiner may make a written request for reconsideration pursuant to the provisions of CCC 2.05.060. [Ord. 16-052 § 11, 4-5-16.]

17.20.107 Administration.

Application materials for a threshold determination for a Class IV general forest practice, a request for waiver of moratorium or a request for lift of moratorium submitted pursuant to this chapter shall include the following information:

A. Master application and parcel description, including parcel number.

B. Vicinity map.

C. Site Plan. All site plans submitted shall be to a scale no smaller than one inch to 200 feet. The site plan shall include a north arrow and scale, as well as the following information:

1. Harvest boundaries and tree retention areas;

2. The approximate location of any existing structures;

3. The location of all existing and proposed streets, rights-of-way, easements, skid roads, haul roads, and landings that will serve the proposal;

4. The location of future development, such as building site(s), septic drainfield area(s), well, grading, and landscaping;

5. Site topography at a contour interval of 20 feet;

6. Critical areas and critical area buffers regulated pursuant to Chapter 19.15 CCC;

7. Drainage ways and culverts.

D. Narrative. The applicant shall provide a comprehensive written description of objectives of the timber harvest, relationship of the harvest to future development of the site, measures taken to preserve and protect critical areas, harvest method, and expected time frame for harvest. Proposed future development activities shall be described in detail, including location, design and how applicable development standards will be met.

E. Completed State Environmental Policy Act environmental checklist.

F. Proposed or issued forest practice application materials on forms provided by the Department of Natural Resources.

G. Any additional applicable information the Director deems necessary to adequately review the proposal. [Ord. 16-052 § 12, 4-5-16.]

17.20.110 Enforcement authority.

A. The Director shall have authority to enforce this chapter, any rule or regulation adopted, and any permit, order, or approval issued pursuant to this chapter, against any violation. If any person engages in any land use violation, the Director may seek a cease and desist order.

B. Enforcement actions may include civil infractions, cease and desist orders, restoration orders, and judicial enforcement actions. Recourse to any single remedy shall not preclude recourse to any other remedy.

C. Each violation of this chapter, or any rule or regulation adopted pursuant thereto, or any permit, permit condition, approval, or order issued pursuant to this chapter, shall be a separate offense. Each day’s continuance of a violation shall be deemed to be a separate and distinct offense. Each tree cut in violation of this chapter shall constitute a separate offense.

D. All costs, fees, and expenses in connection with all enforcement action may be recovered from the violator. [Ord. 99-146, § 11, 8-30-99.]

17.20.120 Cease and desist orders.

Repealed by Ord. 16-052. [Ord. 99-146, § 12, 8-30-99.]

17.20.125 Restoration orders.

The Director may serve a restoration order for complete or partial restoration of the site by the person responsible for any violation of this chapter.

A. The restoration order shall include all of the following:

1. A description of the specific nature, extent, approximate time of the violation if known, and any damage or potential damage resulting from the violation;

2. A notice that the violation, cease and desist order, or, in appropriate cases, the specific corrective action is to be taken within a specified time;

3. A list of specific corrective measures to be taken to mitigate environmental damage or restore the site and a specific date by which such measures shall be accomplished.

B. The restoration order issued under this chapter shall become effective immediately upon service upon the person to whom the order is directed. [Ord. 16-052 § 14, 4-5-16.]

17.20.130 Violations – Penalties.

It is a civil infraction for any person to violate this chapter or assist in the violation of this chapter. Violations are subject to the provisions of Chapter 2.06 CCC. Any violation is a public nuisance. Each day a violation exists is a separate violation. Payment of any penalty imposed for a violation does not relieve a person from the duty to comply with this chapter. Violations of this chapter are also subject to penalties under CCC 1.01.090. [Ord. 16-052 § 15, 4-5-16.]

17.20.140 Conflict with other regulations.

Where other Cowlitz County ordinances, resolutions, or regulations are in conflict with this chapter the more restrictive regulation shall apply and such application shall extend to those specific provisions which are more restrictive. [Ord. 99-146, § 14, 8-30-99.]

17.20.150 Effective date.

The ordinance codified in this chapter shall become effective immediately upon its adoption. [Ord. 99-146, § 15, 8-30-99.]