Chapter 2.33
PERMIT REVIEW PROCEDURES

Sections:

2.33.010    Purpose and applicability.

2.33.020    Exemptions.

2.33.030    Preapplication review.

2.33.040    Application submittal information.

2.33.050    Permit receipt and determination of completeness.

2.33.060    Notice of application for a proposed land use action.

2.33.070    Notice of an open record hearing.

2.33.080    Consistency review and staff report.

2.33.090    Permit review limitations and notice of final decision.

2.33.100    Consolidated permit review.

2.33.110    Open record hearings.

2.33.120    Annual report.

2.33.010 Purpose and applicability.

A. The purpose of this chapter is to consolidate the application, review, and approval processes for land development in Whatcom County in a manner that is easily understood and concise. It is further intended for this chapter to comply with state direction by integrating environmental and land use review within a 120-day period.

B. This chapter describes how the county will process applications for development. The provisions of this chapter shall apply to all applications for a project permit that require an open record hearing including, but not limited to:

1. Conditional uses;

2. Variances;

3. Subdivisions;

4. Shoreline permits when an open record hearing is required;

5. General binding site plans;

6. Lot consolidation relief;

7. Site-specific rezones;

8. Reasonable use. (Ord. 2005-068 § 2; Ord. 2000-016 § 1; Ord. 99-081; Ord. 96-031 § 1).

2.33.020 Exemptions.

The following are exempt from the provisions of this chapter:

A. Project permits not subject to open record hearings; including, but not limited to, building permits and short plats, are exempt from the provisions of this chapter; provided, that:

1. The county shall make a determination of completeness pursuant to WCC 2.33.050; and

2. A final decision is made by the county pursuant to WCC 2.33.090:

a. Within 90 days of a determination of completeness if the project is exempt from SEPA review unless a shorter review period is provided in other provisions of the Whatcom County Code;

b. Within 120 days of a determination of completeness if the project is subject to SEPA review unless a shorter review period is provided in other provisions of the Whatcom County Code;

B. Planned unit development permits; provided, that the county shall make a determination of completeness pursuant to WCC 2.33.050;

C. Major development permits; provided, that the county shall make a determination of completeness pursuant to WCC 2.33.050;

D. Concomitant rezones; provided, that the county shall make a determination of completeness pursuant to WCC 2.33.050;

E. Legislative actions including standard map amendments, comprehensive plans or other related plans and regulations. (Ord. 2000-016 § 1; Ord. 99-081; Ord. 96-031 § 1).

2.33.030 Preapplication review.

A. The purpose of preapplication review is to acquaint county staff with a sufficient level of detail regarding the proposal. It is also the purpose of this review to acquaint the applicant with the applicable requirements of the Whatcom County Code.

B. A preapplication conference may be requested prior to the submittal of a project permit application subject to this chapter.

C. A fee shall be charged to the applicant for preapplication review. If the county makes a determination of completeness within one year of the preapplication meeting, the preapplication fee shall be applied to the application cost.

D. It is the responsibility of the applicant to initiate a preapplication conference through a written request or other means allowed by the technical administrator. The request shall, at a minimum, include the following written information:

1. Property owner’s name, address, phone number, fax number;

2. Applicant/project representative name, address, phone number, fax number;

3. Project site parcel number;

4. Project site address (if available);

5. Written description of the project;

6. One copy of the current deed to the property;

7. A site plan drawn at a scale of one inch equals 100 feet or larger that includes the following:

a. North arrow,

b. Scale,

c. All existing and proposed property lines with dimensions of parcel,

d. Location and size of existing and proposed structures labelled appropriately,

e. Location and size of existing and proposed easements and/or rights-of-way on or adjacent to the project site,

f. Significant physical features such as drainageways, wet areas, steep or unstable slopes,

g. Location of utilities including wells and septic systems when applicable.

E. The applicant may provide additional information to facilitate more detailed review. See WCC 2.33.040, Application submittal information, for additional submittal information.

F. A preapplication conference shall be held as soon as possible, but, in any event, no later than 20 days from the date of the applicant’s request.

G. The county shall provide the applicant with notice of site-specific submittal requirements as soon as possible, but, in any event, no later than 10 days from the date of the conference.

H. Preapplication review and preapplication agreements shall be valid for one year. If, within one year of a preapplication meeting, an associated application is not filed with the county or the application is substantially altered, the applicant shall be subject to a new preapplication review with a corresponding fee.

I. Preapplication review does not constitute acceptance of an application by the county nor does it vest an application. (Ord. 96-031 § 1).

2.33.040 Application submittal information.

A. Applications for a project permit shall be submitted using forms provided by the review authority.

B. If the applicant decides to mail a notice of application under WCC 2.33.060.D.2.a, the applicant shall include stamped and addressed envelopes (pursuant to WCC 2.33.060.D.2.a) with the application.

C. Submittal requirements for project permits are contained within the specific county code for each type of project proposal, in the corresponding chapter of the Whatcom County Development Standards, in applicable state law or WACs and in any site specific conditions resulting from a preapplication conference.

The submittal information for each permit type constitutes the information necessary to determine whether an application is complete pursuant to WCC 2.33.050, Permit receipt and determination of completeness.

D. All information and agreements resulting from preapplication review must be submitted with the application unless otherwise agreed to by the county.

E. If the proposal submitted with the application has changed to such a degree that it requires substantial re-evaluation, any agreements made by the county may be voided. (Ord. 96-031 § 1).

2.33.050 Permit receipt and determination of completeness.

A. An application shall meet all submittal requirements before the proposal is submitted to the county for review. Upon submittal by the applicant, the county will accept the application and note the date of receipt. Receipt of an application does not constitute approval of the project proposal.

B. Within 14 days of accepting the application, the county shall make a determination of completeness or issue a determination that the application is incomplete.

C. A project permit application is complete when it meets the submittal information requirements of WCC 2.33.040, Application submittal information.

D. When an application is determined to be complete, the county shall proceed as follows:

1. Issue a determination of completeness either via postal service or directly provided to the applicant within 14 days of accepting a project permit application.

2. To the extent known, identify other agencies that may have jurisdiction over the project permit application. A list of agencies shall be included in the determination of completeness.

3. A determination of completeness shall not preclude the county from requiring additional information or studies at any time prior to permit approval.

E. If the application is determined to be incomplete, then the following procedure shall take place:

1. The county will notify the applicant that the application is incomplete and indicate what is necessary to make the application complete.

2. The applicant shall have 90 days from the date that the notification was issued to submit the necessary information to the county. This period shall be extended at the applicant’s request in 90-day increments.

3. Upon receipt of the requested additional information, the county shall have 14 days to make a determination and notify the applicant.

4. If the applicant does not submit the necessary information to the county in writing within the 90-day period, the county shall make findings and issue a decision that the application is rejected.

F. If the county rejects an application, all vesting rights are lost.

G. If the county rejects an application because the applicant has failed to submit the required information within the necessary time period the county will return the application materials and the application will be closed.

H. A project permit application shall be deemed complete under this section if the county does not provide a written determination to the applicant that the application is incomplete within 14 days from the date of submittal as required in subsection E of this section. (Ord. 96-031 § 1).

2.33.060 Notice of application for a proposed land use action.

A. A notice of application shall be issued for project permit applications within 14 days after a determination of completeness and at least 15 days prior to the open record hearing.

B. If the county has made a determination of significance concurrently with notice of application, the determination of significance and scoping notice shall be combined with the notice of application.

C. Notice shall include:

1. The date of application, the date of notice of completion for the application, and the date of the notice of application;

2. The date, time, place and type of the hearing, if applicable, and scheduled at the date of notice of the application;

3. A description of the proposed project action and a list of the project permits included in the application, and, if applicable, a list of any studies requested by the county;

4. The identification of other permits not included in the application to the extent known by the county;

5. The identification of environmental reviews conducted, including notice of existing environmental documents that evaluate the proposed project (including but not limited to reports, delineations, assessments and/or mitigation plans associated with critical area reviews) and, if not otherwise stated on the document providing notice of application, the location where the application and any studies can be reviewed;

6. Any other information determined appropriate by the county;

7. A statement indicating those development regulations that will be used for project mitigation or a determination of consistency if they have been identified at the time of notice;

8. A statement of the limits of the public comment period, the right of any person to comment on the application within a 15-day time period (30 days for substantial development permits and major project permits for mitigation banks), receive notice of and participate in any hearings, request a copy of the decision once made and to appeal a decision when allowed by law. In addition, the statement shall indicate that any person wishing to receive personal notice of any hearings must notify the hearing examiner’s office within 15 days (30 days for substantial development permits and major project permits for mitigation banks) of the date of the notice of application.

D. A notice of application shall be issued in the following manner:

1. The notice shall be published once in the official county newspaper. The applicant shall bear the responsibility of paying for such notice;

2. Additional notice shall be given using the following method:

a. For sites within urban growth areas: At least 12 days prior to the scheduled hearing date, application notice shall be sent to all property owners within 300 feet of the external boundaries of the subject property as shown by the records of the county assessor. Applicants shall submit, with their completed application, a stamped envelope with a typed address for each of the above referenced property owners;

b. For sites outside urban growth areas: At least 12 days prior to the scheduled hearing date, application notice shall be sent to all property owners within 1,000 feet of the external boundaries of the subject property as shown by the records of the county assessor. Applicants shall submit, with their completed application, a stamped envelope with a typed address for each of the above referenced property owners;

3. All cost associated with providing notice shall be paid by the applicant.

E. Notices of application should be sent to neighboring cities and other agencies or tribes that will potentially be affected, either directly or indirectly, by the proposed development. (The county shall be responsible for such notification.)

F. With the exception of substantial development permit applications and major project permit applications for mitigation banks, a public comment period shall be 15 days following the date of notice of application. Substantial development permit applications and major project permit applications for mitigation banks require a 30-day period. All public comments received on the notice of application must be received in the department of planning and development services by 4:30 p.m. on or before the last day of the comment period. The county may require the applicant to pay the cost of providing notice.

G. No SEPA threshold determination shall be issued until the expiration of the public comment period established for the notice of application. This condition shall not apply if a determination of significance is made by the county.

H. Public notice given for project permit applications, SEPA documents, project hearings, and appeals hearings as required by this chapter and other provisions of the county code may be combined when practical, where such combined notice will expedite the permit review process, and where provisions applicable to each individual notice are met through the combined notice. (Ord. 2005-068 § 2; Ord. 2005-004; Ord. 2003-039 Exh. A; Ord. 96-031 § 1).

2.33.070 Notice of an open record hearing.

A. A notice of open record hearing shall be published by the hearing examiner once in the official county newspaper at least 10 days prior to an open record hearing. The notice shall consist of the date, time, place, and type of the hearing. In addition, personal notice shall be provided to any person who has requested such notice in a timely manner, consistent with WCC 2.33.060(C)(8).

B. Additional notice shall be given within two days of the published notice by posting of three copies of the notice in a conspicuous manner on the property upon which the use is proposed. (Notices shall be provided by the county. The applicant shall be responsible for posting.)

C. An affidavit verifying distribution of the notice must be submitted to the county two working days prior to the open record hearing.

D. Notices of an open record hearing should be sent to neighboring cities and other agencies or tribes that will potentially be affected, either directly or indirectly, by the proposed development. The county shall be responsible for such notification.

E. All cost associated with providing notice shall be paid by the applicant. (Ord. 2003-039 Exh. A; Ord. 96-031 § 1).

2.33.080 Consistency review and staff report.

A. Fundamental land use planning choices made in adopted comprehensive plans and development regulations shall serve as the foundation for project review. During project review, the review authority shall determine if the project proposal is consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan, other adopted plans, existing regulations and development standards. The review authority shall at a minimum use four criteria for determining consistency, as follows:

1. Type of land use permitted on the site;

2. Density of development allowed on-site, such as units per acre or floor area ratio or lot coverage;

3. Availability and adequacy of public facilities and infrastructure (when applicable);

4. Character of the development.

B. The county may conduct a more specific evaluation in addition to the evaluation of the four main categories listed in subsection (A) of this section in considering project consistency when other criteria are required by federal, state or local regulations.

C. County staff shall file one consolidated report with the hearing examiner at least 17 days prior to a scheduled hearing. The staff report shall address the proposed development or action, summarizing the comments and recommendations of county departments, affected agencies, special districts and public comments received within the 15-day or 30-day comment period as established in WCC 2.33.060(F). The report shall also provide an evaluation of the project proposal for consistency as indicated in this section. The staff report shall include findings, conclusions, and proposed recommendations for response to the proposal.

D. The conclusions of a consistency determination made under this section shall be documented in the project permit decision. (Ord. 2005-068 § 2; Ord. 96-031 § 1).

2.33.090 Permit review limitations and notice of final decision.

A. Unless otherwise exempted in WCC 2.33.020 or subsection (C) of this section, the county shall issue a notice of final decision on a project permit application as follows:

1. Within 90 days of a determination of completeness if the project is exempt from SEPA review unless a shorter review period is provided in other provisions of the Whatcom County Code;

2. Within 90 days of a determination of completeness if the project is a subdivision under WCC Title 21 unless a shorter review period is provided in other provisions of the Whatcom County Code;

3. Within 120 days of a determination of completeness if the project is other than a subdivision and is subject to SEPA review unless a shorter review period is provided in other provisions of the Whatcom County Code.

B. In determining the number of days that have elapsed after an application is determined to be complete, the following time periods shall be excluded:

1. Any period during which the applicant has been required by the county to correct plans, perform required studies, or provide additional, required information.

a. The period shall be calculated from the date the county notifies the applicant of the need for additional information until the date the county receives the additional information. The county shall have 14 days after the date the information has been provided to the county to determine adequacy of the information;

b. If the information submitted by the applicant under this subsection is insufficient, the county shall notify the applicant of the deficiencies and the provisions of this section shall apply as if a new request for information has been made;

2. Any period during which an environmental impact statement is being prepared following a determination of significance pursuant to Chapter 43.21C RCW and WCC Title 16;

3. The period specified for administrative appeals of project permits as provided in Chapter 20.92 WCC;

4. The period specified for administrative appeals of development standards as provided in WCC 12.08.035(I);

5. Any period in which the applicant has not met public notification requirements;

6. Any period of time mutually agreed upon in writing by the applicant and the county.

C. The time limits established by subsections (A) and (B) of this section shall not apply to a project permit application that:

1. Requires an amendment to the Whatcom County comprehensive plan or a development regulation in order to obtain approval.

2. Requires approval of a new fully contained community as provided in RCW 36.70A.350, a master planned resort as provided in RCW 36.70A.360, or the siting of an essential public facility as provided in RCW 36.70A.200.

3. Is substantially revised by the applicant, including all redesigns of proposed land divisions pursuant to WCC 21.01.150, in which case a new time period shall start from the date at which the revised project application is determined to be complete.

D. The county may extend notice of final decision on the project if the county can document legitimate reasons for such a delay. In such a case the county shall provide written notice to the applicant at least 20 days prior to the deadline for the original notice of final decision. The notice shall include a statement of reasons why the time limits have not been met and a date of issuance of a notice of final decision.

E. The county shall not be liable for damages under this chapter due to the county’s failure to make a final decision within the time limits established in WCC 2.33.080.

F. Notice shall be made by mail to the applicant, the Whatcom County assessor, and any party of record.

G. Unless otherwise acted upon by the county in a manner consistent with this chapter, permit applications subject to this chapter shall be approved as submitted within the timeliness established in WCC 2.33.090. (Ord. 2000-056 § 3; Ord. 96-031 § 1).

2.33.100 Consolidated permit review.

A. At the request of the applicant, the county shall integrate and consolidate the review and decision on two or more project permits subject to this chapter that relate to the proposed project action.

B. If the applicant elects the consolidated permit review process, the determination of completeness, notice of application, and notice of final decision must include all project permits being reviewed through the consolidated permit review process.

C. The consolidated permit review may combine an open record hearing on one or more permits with an open record appeal hearing on other permits. (Ord. 96-031 § 1).

2.33.110 Open record hearings.

Open record hearings subject to this chapter shall be undertaken pursuant to Chapter 20.92 WCC and other relevant chapters relating to specific permit processes. (Ord. 96-031 § 1).

2.33.120 Annual report.

Staff shall prepare an annual report on the implementation of this chapter and submit it to the council. (Ord. 96-031 § 1).