Chapter 20.62
GENERAL COMMERCIAL (GC) DISTRICT

Sections:

20.62.010    Purpose.

20.62.050    Permitted uses.

20.62.100    Accessory uses.

20.62.150    Conditional uses.

20.62.200    Prohibited uses.

20.62.250    Minimum lot size.

20.62.251    Large commercial retail.

20.62.255    Minimum lot frontage.

20.62.300    Minimum density.

20.62.350    Building setbacks.

20.62.400    Height limitations.

20.62.450    Lot coverage.

20.62.500    Open space.

20.62.550    Buffer area.

20.62.600    Sign regulations.

20.62.650    Development criteria.

20.62.651    Landscaping.

20.62.652    Off-street parking and loading.

20.62.653    Drainage.

20.62.654    Driveways.

20.62.655    Access.

20.62.656    Lighting.

20.62.657    Binding site plan.

20.62.700    Performance standards.

20.62.010 Purpose.

The purpose of the General Commercial District is to provide land areas, commensurate with the anticipated demand, for the siting of commercial uses which serve the surrounding community with a broad range of retail goods and services. Since general commercial uses are such that they attract clientele from a relatively large trade area, the application of this district shall only be utilized within urban growth areas, in locations where transportation access can be maximized and incompatible impacts to surrounding land uses minimized. Property within this district may also serve to meet the multifamily needs of the community in accordance with the demands of the market place. (Ord. 2011-043 Exh. A, 2011; Ord. 88-53, 1988).

20.62.050 Permitted uses.

Unless otherwise provided herein, permitted and conditional uses shall be administered pursuant to the applicable provisions of Chapter 20.80 WCC (Supplementary Requirements) and Chapter 20.84 WCC (Variances, Conditional Uses and Appeals), the Whatcom County SEPA Ordinance, the Whatcom County Subdivision Ordinance and the Whatcom County Shoreline Management Program.

.051 Automobile, motorcycle, marine and farm implement sales, repair and service; provided, that all repair services are conducted within an enclosed building.

.052 Automobile service stations, car washes and public garages.

.053 Mobile home and recreational vehicle sales.

.054 Eating and drinking establishments; provided, that such uses require a conditional use permit if located within airport overlay zone 2 or 3 as shown in Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan Appendix H.

.055 Rental agencies.

.056 Indoor commercial recreation facilities limited to bowling alleys, skating rinks, indoor theaters and physical fitness centers; provided, that such uses require a conditional use permit if located within airport overlay zone 2 or 3 as shown in Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan Appendix H.

.057 Passenger terminal facilities.

.058 Service establishment including but not limited to barber and beauty shops, laundries, dry cleaners, furniture repair, frozen food lockers, funeral parlors, animal hospitals, auction houses, financial institutions, fraternal organizations and professional offices.

.059 Retail establishments including but not limited to grocery, liquor, drug, sundries, variety, building supplies, clothing, florist, nurseries, optical, sporting goods, appliance, music, pet stores and marijuana retail facilities.

.060 Printing and publishing establishments.

.061 Public utilities, except broadcast towers, which require a conditional use permit pursuant to WCC 20.82.030(5), and water and sewer treatment plants, which require a conditional use permit pursuant to WCC 20.82.030(8).

.062 Rental storage establishments.

.063 Public and community facilities including police and fire stations, libraries, community centers, recreation facilities, and other similar noncommercial uses; provided, that such uses require a conditional use permit if located within airport overlay zone 2 or 3 as shown in Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan Appendix H.

.064 Hotels and motels; provided, that such uses require a conditional use permit if located within airport overlay zone 2 or 3 as shown in Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan Appendix H.

.065 One single-family dwelling per lot of record subject to:

(1) Health department requirements regarding soil type and water supply.

(2) Height regulations, lot coverage, open space, development standards and performance standards shall be in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 20.20 WCC; except that side and rear yard setbacks shall be 10 feet from vacant, adjacent, commercially zoned properties.

(3) A deed restriction recorded with the Whatcom County auditor is attached to the lot(s) at the time of building permit issuance stating that the dwelling(s) is located in a General Commercial Zone and buyers should be aware that commercial uses will be allowed on surrounding parcels and owners have no grounds for protest.

(4) Such use requires a conditional use permit if located within airport overlay zone 2 or 3 as shown in Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan Appendix H.

(5) Within the Columbia Valley Urban Growth Area, single-family dwellings are not permitted in the General Commercial Zone.

.066 Duplexes and multifamily dwellings not to exceed 18 units per acre subject to:

(1) Availability of adequate public sewer, or water, and appropriate storm drainage;

(2) The maximum number of units shall be determined by the health department based on soil type and water supply;

(3) Provision of adequate right-of-way and street improvements to bring adjacent roadways up to necessary standards;

(4) Height regulations, lot coverage, open space, development standards and performance standards shall be in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 20.22 WCC;

(5) Site plan review shall be done by the technical review committee to ensure compliance with the intent of the general development standards in WCC 20.62.650. Four or less units per acre are exempt from this requirement;

(6) A deed restriction recorded with the Whatcom County auditor is attached to the lot(s) at the time of building permit issuance stating that the dwelling(s) is located in a General Commercial Zone and buyers should be aware that commercial uses will be allowed on surrounding parcels and owners have no grounds for protest;

(7) Duplexes and multifamily dwellings shall not be located within airport overlay zone 2 or 3 as shown in Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan Appendix H.

(8) Within the Columbia Valley Urban Growth Area, duplex and multifamily development shall not occupy more than 25 percent of the total land area in the General Commercial Zone. This restriction does not apply to dwellings located above ground-floor commercial development.

.067 One one-story detached accessory storage building per lot; provided, that the floor area shall not exceed 200 square feet and shall only be used for personal storage and not for habitation or business; and provided further, that the storage building shall contain no indoor plumbing but may be served with electrical power for lighting.

.069 Mini-day care centers and day care centers; provided, that such uses require a conditional use permit if located within airport overlay zone 2 or 3 as shown in Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan Appendix H.

.070 Public parks and recreation facilities included in an adopted city or county Comprehensive Plan or Park Plan.

.071 Trails, trailheads, restroom facilities and associated parking areas for no more than 30 vehicles.

.072 Activity centers.

.080 Major passenger intermodal terminals.

.088 Adult family homes as defined in Chapter 70.128 RCW; provided, that such uses require a conditional use permit if located within airport overlay zone 2 or 3 as shown in Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan Appendix H.

.089 Boarding homes that are similar in size, facilities and occupancy to other residential structures permitted in the zoning district.

.090 Mental health facilities that provide residential treatment and are similar in size, facilities and occupancy to other residential structures permitted in the zoning district.

.091 Substance abuse facilities that provide residential treatment and are similar in size, facilities and occupancy to other residential structures permitted in the zoning district.

.094 Secure community transition facilities for sex offenders.

(1) A secure community transition facility shall not be located adjacent to, immediately across the street or parking lot from, or within the line of sight of existing risk potential facilities, which are:

(a) Public schools;

(b) Private schools;

(c) School bus stops;

(d) Licensed day care;

(e) Licensed preschool facilities;

(f) Public parks;

(g) Publicly dedicated trails;

(h) Sports fields;

(i) Playgrounds;

(j) Recreational and community centers;

(k) Churches, synagogues, temples or mosques;

(l) Public libraries;

(m) Public and private youth camps; and

(n) Other uses identified by the State Department of Social and Health Services pursuant to RCW 71.09.020(11).

“Within the line of sight” shall mean that it is possible to reasonably visually distinguish and recognize individuals. An unobstructed visual distance of 600 feet shall be considered to be within the line of sight. Line of sight may be considered to be less than 600 feet if the applicant can demonstrate that visual barriers exist or would be created that would visually screen the risk potential facility from the secure community transition facility.

(2) No more than one secure community transition facility, with a maximum of three people (other than staff), shall be located within Whatcom County. (Ord. 2015-006 Exh. A, 2015; Ord. 2011-016 § 3 Exh. C, 2011; Ord. 2009-034 § 1 (Att. A), 2009; Ord. 2005-079 § 1, 2005; Ord. 2005-004, 2005; Ord. 2004-026 § 1, 2004; Ord. 2004-014 § 2, 2004; Ord. 99-068, 1999; Ord. 99-062, 1999; Ord. 96-056 Att. A § M1, 1996; Ord. 94-017, 1994; Ord. 88-53, 1988; Ord. 88-28, 1988; Ord. 88-13, 1988; Ord. 87-12, 1987; Ord. 87-11, 1987).

20.62.100 Accessory uses.

.101 One residential unit for owner-manager or caretaker when part of a building in which the primary use is located.

.102 Uses incidental to the primary permitted uses.

.103 On-site treatment and storage facilities for hazardous wastes associated with outright permitted uses or approved conditional uses subject to the most current siting criteria under Chapter 173-303 WAC.

.104 Family day care homes and mini-day care homes; provided, that mini-day care homes conform to the requirements of home occupation, WCC 20.80.970; and further provided, that such uses require a conditional use permit if located within airport overlay zone 2 or 3 as shown in Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan Appendix H.

.105 Electric vehicle rapid charging stations and battery exchange facilities, accessory to automobile service stations. (Ord. 2016-011 § 1 (Exh. D), 2016; Ord. 2012-001 § 1 (Exh. A), 2012; Ord. 2010-030 § 1 (Exh. A), 2010; Ord. 2009-034 § 1 (Att. A), 2009; Ord. 89-10, 1989; Ord. 88-29, 1988).

20.62.150 Conditional uses.

.151 Commercial wholesaling.

.152 Churches and cemeteries.

.153 Amusement parks, outdoor theaters and other outdoor commercial recreation, including golf courses.

.154 Recreational vehicle parks for transient motor homes and tourist trailers.

.155 Animal kennels.

.156 Commercial truck service facilities including truck fueling, repair and storage operations, overnight accommodations and restaurants.

.157 Deleted by Ord. 96-056.

.158 Residences on premises in a commercial structure where any business is conducted other than taverns, restaurants and recreational facilities provided:

(1) All height limits and setback requirements can be met.

(2) The overall residential density does not exceed 12 units per acre.

.159 Trailheads with parking areas for more than 30 vehicles.

.160 Public campgrounds.

.161 Public or private parks that are not included in an adopted city or county Comprehensive Plan or Park Plan.

.162 Athletic fields.

.183 State education facilities.

.184 State and local correction facilities.

.185 Type I solid waste handling facilities.

.186 Type II solid waste handling facilities.

.189 Boarding homes that are larger than other residential structures permitted in the zoning district.

.190 Mental health facilities that provide residential treatment and are larger than other residential structures permitted in the zoning district.

.191 Substance abuse facilities that provide residential treatment and are larger than other residential structures permitted in the zoning district.

.192 Mental health facilities that provide crisis care.

.193 Substance abuse facilities that provide crisis care.

.194 Outpatient mental health facilities.

.195 Outpatient substance abuse treatment facilities, including opiate substitution treatment clinics.

.196 Mitigation banks as a form of compensatory mitigation for wetland and habitat conservation area impacts when permitted in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 16.16 WCC; provided, applications for mitigation banks shall be processed as a major development project pursuant to Chapter 20.88 WCC. (Ord. 2005-068 § 2, 2005; Ord. 2004-026 § 1, 2004; Ord. 2004-014 § 2, 2004; Ord. 96-056 Att. A § M2, 1996; Ord. 90-41, 1990; Ord. 88-29, 1988; Ord. 82-58, 1982).

20.62.200 Prohibited uses.

All uses not listed as permitted, accessory, or conditional uses are prohibited, including but not limited to the following, which are listed here for purposes of clarity:

.201 Reserved.

.202 Adult businesses. (Ord. 2016-011 § 1 (Exh. L), 2016; Ord. 99-070 § 2, 1999).

20.62.250 Minimum lot size.

The minimum lot size shall be consistent with the area required to meet the building setback, lot coverage and development standards of this district.

20.62.251 Large commercial retail.

Retail establishments with a floor area less than 35,000 square feet are allowed in the General Commercial (GC) Zone. Retail establishments within the General Commercial Zone are allowed up to 65,000 square feet; provided, that:

(1) The floor area of adjacent stores shall be aggregated in cases where the stores (a) are engaged in selling of similar or related merchandise and operate under common ownership or management; (b) share check stands, a warehouse, or a distribution facility; or (c) otherwise operate as an associated, integrated or cooperative business enterprise.

(2) Two thousand square feet of interior loft floor area for purposes of storage or mechanical equipment is exempt from the 65,000 square feet maximum floor area.

(3) Retail establishments with a floor area exceeding 35,000 square feet require connection to public sanitary sewer and water services at urban levels of service. (Ord. 2016-011 § 1 (Exh. Q), 2016; Ord. 2008-039 § 1 (Exh. A), 2008).

20.62.255 Minimum lot frontage.

For the purpose of dividing property, minimum lot frontage shall be sufficient to provide adequate access and utility development, and meet applicable building setback, buffer, open space and development standards of the district. In no case shall the frontage be less than 30 feet. (Ord. 99-045 § 1, 1999).

20.62.300 Minimum density.

.301 Hotels and motels shall not exceed a floor area ratio of .60. (Ord. 88-28, 1988).

20.62.350 Building setbacks.

Building setbacks shall be administered pursuant to WCC 20.62.550 and 20.80.200. (Ord. 96-056 Att. A § M3, 1996).

20.62.400 Height limitations.

Maximum building height shall not exceed 35 feet. Height of structures shall also conform, where applicable, to the general requirements of WCC 20.80.675. (Ord. 84-38, 1984).

20.62.450 Lot coverage.

No more than 30 percent of a parcel shall be occupied by buildings or structures.

20.62.500 Open space.

At least 10 percent of the site shall be kept free of buildings, structures, hard surfacing, parking areas and other impervious surfaces.

20.62.550 Buffer area.

When parcels situated within this district adjoin an Urban Residential, Urban Residential Medium Density, Residential Rural or Rural District, side and rear yard setbacks shall be increased to 25 feet along the property line(s) adjacent to the named districts. Said area shall be landscaped consistent with the requirements of WCC 20.80.345. (Ord. 96-056 Att. A § M3, 1996; Ord. 89-117, 1989).

20.62.600 Sign regulations.

Sign regulations shall be administered pursuant to WCC 20.80.400.

20.62.650 Development criteria.

(Ord. 96-056 Att. A § A1, 1996).

20.62.651 Landscaping.

Refer to WCC 20.80.300 for landscaping requirements. (Ord. 89-117, 1989).

20.62.652 Off-street parking and loading.

Off-street parking and loading shall be administered pursuant to WCC 20.80.500.

20.62.653 Drainage.

All development activity within Whatcom County shall be subject to the stormwater management provisions of the Whatcom County Development Standards unless specifically exempted.

No project permit shall be issued prior to meeting submittal requirements relating to stormwater management in the appropriate chapters of the Whatcom County Development Standards. (Ord. 96-056 Att. A § A2, 1996; Ord. 94-022, 1994).

20.62.654 Driveways.

Consistent with WCC 20.80.640, driveway plans shall be reviewed by the county engineer or State Department of Transportation, as applicable. (Ord. 2013-057 § 1 (Exh. A), 2013; Ord. 84-38, 1984).

20.62.655 Access.

Access shall conform to the provisions of WCC 20.80.565. (Ord. 87-12, 1987; Ord. 87-11, 1987).

20.62.656 Lighting.

Lighting shall be designed to avoid excessive glare onto neighboring properties, and to not create safety hazards or unreasonable interference with adjacent uses.

20.62.657 Binding site plan.

Should the commercial use be developed as part of a binding site plan, it shall be administered pursuant to WCC Title 21 (Subdivision Regulations) and additional requirements, as applicable.

20.62.700 Performance standards.

The following provisions shall apply to all uses within this district:

.701 There shall be no storage or handling of hazardous, explosive, highly flammable materials which would cause fire, explosion or safety hazards, except the storage and dispensing of motor fuels in service stations and truck stops.

.702 There shall be no production of noise at any property line of any use in this district in excess of the average intensity of street and traffic noise found in the district.

.703 There shall be no emission of dust, dirt, odors, smoke, or toxic gases and fumes.

.704 There shall be no production of heat, glare or vibration perceptible from any property line of the premises upon which such heat, glare or vibration is being generated. (Ord. 2011-013 § 2 Exh. B, 2011).