Chapter 17.12


17.12.010    Establishment of development permit.

17.12.020    Administrative department – Designated.

17.12.030    Administrative department – Duties and responsibilities.

17.12.040    Variances – Appeals board established – Factors taken into account –Maintenance of records.

17.12.050    Variances – Conditions for issuance.

17.12.010 Establishment of development permit.

A development permit shall be obtained before construction or development begins within any area of special flood hazard established in WCC 17.04.050. The permit shall be for all structures including manufactured homes, as set forth in the definitions, and for all development including fill and other activities, also as set forth in the definitions. Application for a development permit shall be made on forms furnished by the department of public works and may include, but not be limited to, plans in duplicate drawn to scale showing the nature, location, dimensions, and elevations of the area in question, existing or proposed structures, fill, storage of materials, drainage facilities, and the location of the foregoing. Specifically, the following information is required:

A. Elevation in relation to mean sea level, of the lowest floor (including basement) of all structures;

B. Elevation in relation to mean sea level to which any structure has been floodproofed;

C. Certification by a registered professional engineer or architect that the floodproofing methods for any nonresidential structure meet the floodproofing criteria as provided in WCC 17.16.090; and

D. Description of the extent to which any watercourse will be altered or relocated as a result of proposed development. (Ord. 96-050 Exh A; Ord. 87-25 (part)).

17.12.020 Administrative department –Designated.

The department of public works is appointed to administer and implement this title by granting or denying development permit applications in accordance with its provisions. (Ord. 96-050 Exh A; Ord. 87-25 (part)).

17.12.030 Administrative department – Duties and responsibilities.

The duties of the department of public works shall include, but not be limited to:

A. Permit Review. The department of public works shall:

1. Review all development permits to determine that the permit requirements of this title have been satisfied;

2. Review all development permits to determine that all necessary permits have been obtained from those federal, state or local governmental agencies from which prior approval is required;

3. Review all development permits to determine if the proposed development adversely affects the flood-carrying capacity of the area of special flood hazard. For purposes of this chapter, “adversely affects” means that the cumulative effect of the proposed development, when combined with all other existing and anticipated development, will not increase the water surface elevation of the base flood more than one foot at any point.

B. Use of Other Base Flood Data. When base flood elevation data has not been provided in accordance with WCC 17.04.050, Basis for establishing the areas of special flood hazard, the department of public works shall obtain, review, and reasonably utilize any base flood elevation and floodway data available from a federal, state or other source, in order to administer WCC 17.16.070, Specific standards, and 17.16.120, Floodways.

C. Information to be Obtained and Maintained. The department of public works shall:

1. When base flood elevation data is provided through the flood insurance study or required as in WCC 17.12.030B, obtain and record the actual elevation (in relation to mean sea level) of the lowest habitable floor (including basement) of all new or substantially improved structures;

2. For all new or substantially improved floodproofed structures:

a. Verify and record the actual elevation (in relation to mean sea level), and

b. Maintain the floodproofing certifications required in WCC 17.12.010A;

3. Maintain for public inspection all records pertaining to the provisions of this title.

D. Alteration of Watercourse. The department of buildings and codes administration shall:

1. Notify adjacent communities and the Washington State Department of Ecology prior to any alteration or relocation of a watercourse, and submit evidence of such notification to the Federal Insurance Administration;

2. Require that maintenance is provided within the altered or relocated portion of said watercourse so that the flood carrying capacity is not diminished.

E. Interpretation of FIRM Boundaries. The department of public works shall make interpretations where needed, as to the exact location of the boundaries of the areas of special flood hazards (for example, where there appears to be a conflict between a mapped boundary and actual field conditions). The person contesting the location of the boundary shall be given a reasonable opportunity to appeal the interpretation as provided in WCC 17.12.040.

F. Required Submission of Additional Information. The administrator shall have authority to require the applicant to submit information certified by licensed professional land surveyors, architects or engineers as may be reasonably necessary to assure conformance with the standards of this title. (Ord. 96-050 Exh A; Ord. 87-25 (part)).

17.12.040 Variances – Appeals board established – Factors taken into account – Maintenance of records.

A. The hearing examiner as established by Whatcom County shall hear and decide appeals and requests for variances from the requirements of this title.

B. The hearing examiner shall hear and decide appeals when it is alleged there is an error in any requirement, decision, or determination made by the administrator in the enforcement or administration of this title.

C. Those aggrieved by the decision of the hearing examiner, or any taxpayer, may appeal such decision to the superior court, as provided in RCW Chapter 36.70.

D. In passing upon such applications, the hearing examiner shall consider all technical evaluations, all relevant factors, standards specified in other sections of this title, and:

1. The danger that materials may be swept onto other land to the injury of others;

2. The danger of life and property due to flooding or erosion damage;

3. The susceptibility of the proposed facility and its contents to flood damage and the effect of such damage on the individual owner;

4. The importance of the services provided by the proposed facility to the community;

5. The necessity to the facility of a waterfront location, where applicable;

6. The availability of alternative locations for the proposed use which are not subject to flooding or erosion damage;

7. The compatibility of the proposed use with existing and anticipated development;

8. The relationship of the proposed use to the comprehensive plan and floodplain management program for that area;

9. The safety of access to the property in times of flood for ordinary and emergency vehicles;

10. The expected heights, velocity, duration, rate of rise, the sediment transport of the flood waters and the effects of wave action, if applicable, expected at the site; and

11. The costs of providing governmental services during and after flood conditions, including maintenance and repair of public utilities and facilities such as sewer, gas, electrical, water systems, and streets and bridges.

E. Upon consideration of the factors of subsection D of this section and the purposes of this title, the hearing examiner may attach such conditions to the granting of variances as it deems necessary to further the purposes of this title.

F. The hearing examiner shall maintain the records of all appeal actions and report any variances to the Federal Insurance Administration upon request. (Ord. 96-050 Exh A; Ord. 87-25 (part)).

17.12.050 Variances – Conditions for issuance.

A. Generally, the only condition under which a variance from the elevation standard may be issued is for new construction and substantial improvements to be erected on a lot of one-half acre or less in size contiguous to and surrounded by lots with existing structures constructed below the base flood level, provided items 1 through 11 in WCC 17.12.040D have been fully considered. As the lot size increases the technical justification required for issuing the variance increases.

B. Variances may be issued for the reconstruction, rehabilitation or restoration of structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places or the State Inventory of Historic Places, without regard to the procedures set forth in the remainder of this section.

C. Variances shall not be issued within any designated floodway if any increase in flood levels during the base flood discharge would result.

D. Variances shall only be issued upon a determination that the variance is the minimum necessary, considering the flood hazard, to afford relief.

E. Variances shall only be issued upon:

1. A showing of good and sufficient cause;

2. A determination that failure to grant the variance would result in exceptional hardship to the applicant; and

3. A determination that the granting of a variance will not result in increased flood heights, additional threats to public safety, extraordinary public expense, create nuisances, cause fraud on or victimization of the public as identified in WCC 17.12.040D, or conflict with existing local laws or ordinances.

F. Variances as interpreted in the National Flood Insurance Program are based on the general zoning law principle that they pertain to a physical piece of property; they are not personal in nature and do not pertain to the structure, its inhabitants, economic or financial circumstances. They primarily address small lots in densely populated residential neighborhoods. As such, variances from the flood elevations should be quite rare.

G. Variances may be issued for nonresidential buildings in very limited circumstances to allow a lesser degree of floodproofing than watertight or dry-floodproofing, where it can be determined that such action will have low damage potential, complies with all other variance criteria except WCC 17.12.050A, and otherwise complies with WCC 17.16.020 and 17.16.030 of the general standards.

H. Any applicant to whom a variance is granted shall be given written notice that the structure will be permitted to be built with a lowest floor elevation below the base flood elevation and that the cost of flood insurance will be commensurate with the increased risk resulting from the reduced lowest floor elevation. (Ord. 96-050 Exh A; Ord. 87-25 (part)).