Chapter 20.90
AMENDMENTS*

Sections:

20.90.010    Purpose.

20.90.020    Types of zoning amendments defined.

20.90.030    Initiation of amendments.

20.90.040    Application, excluding site-specific rezones.

20.90.041    The docket.

20.90.045    Notice for quasi-judicial rezones.

20.90.050    Processing of initiated amendments.

20.90.060    Special provisions.

20.90.070    Transmittal of amendments to the state.

20.90.080    Repealed.

*Prior legislation: Ords. 99-081, 98-083 Exh. A § 66, 98-010 § 1.

20.90.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to define the types of zoning amendments and establish timelines and procedures to be followed when proposals are made for amending or revising the county zoning ordinance. (Ord. 2004-007 § 1, 2004; Ord. 2000-016 § 1).

20.90.020 Types of zoning amendments defined.

(1) “Standard map amendment” means a proposed change or revision to the official county zoning map that affects a single parcel or a number of properties under a single or various ownerships.

(a) Rezone agreements may be required if, from the facts presented, and the findings, report and recommendations of the planning commission as required by this chapter, the council determines that the public health, safety and general welfare will be best served by a proposed change of zone. The council may indicate its general approval, in principle, of the proposed rezoning by the adoption of a “resolution of intent to rezone” for the area involved. This resolution shall include any conditions, stipulations or limitations which the council may feel necessary to require in the public interest as a prerequisite to final action. The fulfillment of all conditions, stipulations and limitations contained in said resolution, on the part of the applicant(s), shall make such a resolution a binding commitment on the council. Such a resolution shall not be used to justify spot zoning, to create unauthorized zoning categories by excluding uses otherwise permitted in the proposed zoning, or by imposing setback, area coverage restrictions not specified in the code for the zoning classification, or as a substitute for a variance. Upon completion of compliance action by the applicant, the council shall, by ordinance, adopt such rezoning. The failure of the applicant to meet any or all conditions, stipulations or limitations contained in the resolution, including the time limit placed in the resolution, shall render the resolution of intent to rezone null and void, unless an extension is granted by the council upon recommendation of the planning commission. The time limitations shall be one year. The council may grant up to five one-year extensions, based on demonstration of hardship or significant progress toward completion, after which the resolution becomes null and void if all conditions, stipulations and limitations have not been met by the applicant.

(2) “Site-specific rezone” means a proposed change or revision to the official county zoning map affecting a limited number of acres and must be composed of a single parcel or contiguous parcels that are under one or a limited number of ownerships and are requested to allow a specific project not allowed under the current zoning designation. A rezone that requires a Comprehensive Plan amendment does not qualify as a site-specific rezone.

(3) “Concomitant rezone” is a standard map amendment or a site-specific rezone which uses a concomitant agreement to impose conditions on, or limitations on uses and may also require performance by the applicant(s) which is/are directly related to mitigation of probable on- and off-site impacts to adjacent uses, public services and the environment. The agreement may be in the form of a covenant running with the land. The provisions of the agreement will be in addition to all other pertinent Whatcom County Code requirements.

(4) “Text amendments” means a proposed change or revision in the text of WCC Title 20, the zoning ordinance. (Ord. 2006-005 § 1, 2006; Ord. 2004-007 § 1, 2004; Ord. 2000-016 § 1).

20.90.030 Initiation of amendments.

Amendments to this title and/or to the official Whatcom County zoning map may be initiated as follows:

(1) The department of planning and development services may initiate an amendment(s) by placing the proposed amendment(s) on the docket.

(2) The Whatcom County planning commission may initiate an amendment(s) by majority vote of its members to place an amendment proposal on the docket.

(3) The county council may initiate an amendment by approving a resolution to place a proposed amendment(s) on the docket. Amendments by the county council may be initiated at any time, subject to county council review of ongoing staff resources and legislative priorities.

(4) A citizen may initiate an amendment(s) to this title and/or to the official Whatcom County zoning map by making application on forms provided by the department of planning and development services and paying a processing fee. A complete application and payment of the fee places the amendment on the docket, except as provided in subsection (5) of this section.

(5) Amendments to this title or the official county zoning map that also require an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan shall be initiated only if the accompanying Comprehensive Plan amendment is initiated as provided in Chapter 2.160 WCC. The payment of the processing fee for the zoning amendment as required by this section shall occur within 15 days of the approval of the resolution initiating the Comprehensive Plan amendment or the zoning amendment will be withdrawn. (Ord. 2010-035 § 1 (Exh. A), 2010; Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A, 2008; Ord. 2004-007 § 1, 2004; Ord. 2000-016 § 1).

20.90.040 Application, excluding site-specific rezones.

(1) Applications for WCC Title 20 map and text amendments, excluding site-specific rezones, shall include at least the following information:

(a) A description of the amendment being proposed including proposed map or text changes;

(b) A complete State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) environmental checklist; and

(c) Name, address, phone number of the applicant, and, if applicable, assessor’s parcel number, section, township, and range.

(2) The department of planning and development services may prescribe additional information requirements and provide forms for the proposed amendments.

(3) Completed applications for WCC Title 20 amendments must be received by planning and development services by December 31st to be considered during the next calendar year. Applications submitted by planning and development services or the county council are not subject to the December 31st deadline.

(4) Interested persons may suggest revisions to WCC Title 20 or the official Whatcom County zoning map by completing and submitting a suggestion form provided for that purpose by the department of planning and development services. These suggestions require no payment of a fee, are not initiated amendments, and will not be processed as an amendment unless they have first been initiated in the manner provided under WCC 20.90.030. None of the parties with authority to initiate amendments under WCC 20.90.030 are under any obligation to initiate suggested revisions as amendments. All suggested revisions shall be forwarded to the county council for review. (Ord. 2010-035 § 1 (Exh. A), 2010; Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A, 2008; Ord. 2004-007 § 1, 2004; Ord. 2000-016 § 1).

20.90.041 The docket.

(1) The docket shall consist of initiated Comprehensive Plan amendments and initiated WCC Title 20 and official zoning map amendments. Together with their supporting application files, the docket shall be maintained by the department of planning and development services and made available for public review during normal business hours.

(2) The county council may remove a proposed amendment from the approved docket by motion, unless the proposed amendment was: (a) initiated by a citizen per WCC 20.90.030(4), (b) the amendment is consistent with state and federal regulations, and (c) the applicant has provided all information required by the planning and development services department. The department shall notify the applicant not less than 30 calendar days prior to consideration of removal from the docket. If the county council has not acted upon a docketed proposed amendment during the year for which it has been docketed, the county council may place the amendment on the following year’s docket. (Ord. 2016-011 § 1 (Exh. B), 2016; Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A, 2008).

20.90.045 Notice for quasi-judicial rezones.

Notice of quasi-judicial hearings conducted by the planning commission for zoning map amendments shall be issued in accordance with all of the following provisions:

(1) Notice shall be published once in the official county newspaper at least 10 days prior to the hearing. The county shall prepare the notice and the applicant shall pay for the notice.

(2) Notice shall be mailed to property owners as follows:

(a) For zoning map amendments within existing urban growth areas: At least 10 days prior to the scheduled hearing date, hearing notice shall be mailed to all property owners within 300 feet of the external boundaries of the subject property as shown by the records of the county assessor. The applicant shall submit a stamped envelope with a typed address for each of the above-referenced property owners.

(b) For zoning map amendments outside existing urban growth areas: At least 10 days prior to the scheduled hearing date, hearing notice shall be mailed 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. The applicant shall submit a stamped envelope with a typed address for each of the above-referenced property owners.

(c) For zoning map amendments that involve rezoning property to an Airport Operations District: At least 10 days prior to the scheduled hearing date, hearing notice shall be mailed to all property owners within 1,500 feet of the external boundaries of the subject property as shown by the records of the county assessor. The applicant shall submit a stamped envelope with a typed address for each of the above-referenced property owners.

(d) For zoning map amendments that involve rezoning property to a Mineral Resource Land designation: At least 10 days prior to the scheduled hearing date, hearing notice shall be mailed to all property owners within 2,000 feet of the external boundaries of the subject property as shown by the records of the county assessor. The applicant shall submit a stamped envelope with a typed address for each of the above referenced property owners.

(3) The county shall prepare and the applicant shall post signs giving notice of the hearing in conspicuous locations on the property at least 10 days prior to the hearing.

(4) The county shall send notice to the appropriate city, when the proposed rezone is within or would expand the urban growth area, and to agencies, school districts, and tribes that will potentially be affected by the proposed rezone at least 10 days prior to the hearing.

(5) For sites within 4,500 feet of the runway of Lynden Airport or Floathaven Sea Plane Base: At least 10 days prior to the scheduled hearing date, application notice shall be sent to the city manager (if applicable), airport board or commission (if applicable), and an official representative of the airport.

(6) For sites within 10,000 feet of the runway of Bellingham International Airport: At least 10 days prior to the scheduled hearing date, application notice shall be sent to the Port of Bellingham.

(7) All notices shall specify the date, time, location, and purpose of the hearing and provide a description and the location of the proposed rezone. The public shall be invited to submit written comments and attend the hearing to provide oral comments. (Ord. 2017-030 § 1 (Exh. E), 2017; Ord. 2015-016 Exh. A, 2015; Ord. 2005-004, 2005; Ord. 2004-014 § 2, 2004).

20.90.050 Processing of initiated amendments.

Initiated amendments are reviewed by the department of planning and development services as listed below:

(1) For citizen-initiated amendments, the department of planning and development services will evaluate each application for completeness and may request additional information of the applicant prior to requesting the appropriate hearing body to schedule a public hearing.

(2) The department of planning and development services shall conduct environmental review under SEPA and prepare a staff report including recommendations and/or options for each initiated amendment to this title and/or the official zoning map. Both the report and the result of the environmental review shall be forwarded to the appropriate hearing body, to the applicable city staff and planning commission if the proposed amendment applies to land within a city’s urban growth area.

(a) The staff report shall evaluate the initiated amendment(s) in relationship to the goals, objectives and policies of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan, consider environmental implications as identified by the Whatcom County SEPA official and evaluate the proposal’s compliance with any other special provision as provided by WCC 20.90.060. If the proposed amendment includes land within a city’s urban growth area, the staff report shall also address consistency with the applicable city comprehensive plan and the ability of the city to provide needed utility services.

(3) The appropriate hearing body (planning commission or hearing examiner) shall receive the staff’s findings and recommendations for the initiated amendment and shall establish a public comment period during which a public hearing(s) on the amendment shall be scheduled. If the proposed amendment includes land within a city’s urban growth area, it shall be processed in accordance with the adopted interlocal agreement with that city.

(4) At the conclusion of the public comment period, the appropriate hearing body shall evaluate the merits of each amendment in relationship to the goals, policies and objectives of the Comprehensive Plan for compliance with any other special provisions as provided by WCC 20.90.060 and shall make a recommendation as to whether the amendment should be approved, approved with modifications or denied. The appropriate hearing body shall then cause written findings and a recommendation to the county council to be prepared for each amendment. The written findings and recommendation shall be forwarded to the county council in the form of an agency report which shall include a draft ordinance to implement the appropriate hearing body’s recommendation, if applicable. No draft ordinance is required if the recommendation is to not approve the initiated amendment proposal.

(5)    (a) The county council shall receive the appropriate hearing body’s findings, recommendations and copy of the proposed amendment of the initiated amendment within 14 days of formal hearing body decision.

(b) Upon receipt of the findings, recommendation and a copy of the proposed amendment, the county council shall, at its next regular public meeting, set the date for a public meeting where it shall consider the appropriate hearing body’s findings and recommendations, and may:

(i) By ordinance, adopt; or

(ii) By motion, reject; or

(iii) By resolution, remand the recommendation back, with instructions, to the appropriate hearing body for reconsideration of the official control or amendment; or

(iv) If, after deliberating, the council believes the public interest may be better served by departing from the recommendation of the appropriate hearing body on an initiated amendment, the council shall conduct their own public hearing. (Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A, 2008; Ord. 2004-007 § 1, 2004; Ord. 2002-007 § 1, 2002; Ord. 2000-016 § 1).

20.90.060 Special provisions.

.061 Deleted by Ord. 2008-060.

.062 Deleted by Ord. 2008-060.

.063 Site-Specific Rezones. Site-specific rezones are processed as “development applications” as prescribed by Chapter 2.33 WCC, Permit Review Procedures, and are reviewed by the hearing examiner in accordance with WCC 20.92.205. The final decisions regarding a site-specific rezone is made by the county council. All site-specific rezones are processed within the timelines as required by Chapter 2.33 WCC except for projects that are exempted by WCC 2.33.020(B) through (D).

(1) Site-specific rezones are initiated by making application on forms provided by the department of planning and development services. Site-specific rezones applications must satisfy the following criteria to be accepted for review:

(a) Does not require a Comprehensive Plan amendment;

(b) Requires a discretionary development permit or building permit;

(c) Includes concurrent submittal of the discretionary development permit or, if a discretional development permit is not required, a narrative statement shall be included with the conceptual site plan which provides a detailed description of the project proposal and includes a project completion date.

(d) Includes evidence that all property owners included within the proposed rezone boundary concur with the rezone and project proposal as submitted for county review.

(e) Includes a completed environmental checklist.

(f) Includes payment of all permit and zoning related fees.

(g) If required as a conditional approval, includes evidence that transfer of development rights can be transferred pursuant to the procedures and requirements in Chapter 20.89 WCC, Density Transfer Procedure, and WCC 20.90.064.

(2) Approval of site-specific rezone proposals must be supported by written findings and conclusions showing specifically that all of the following conditions exist:

(a) That the proposed amendment to the zoning map is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan;

(b) That the proposed amendment to the zoning bears a substantial relationship to public health, safety, morals, general welfare or community needs, and will not adversely affect the surrounding neighborhood as a whole;

(c) That there are changed conditions since the previous zoning became effective to warrant the proposed amendment to the zoning map;

(d) That the proposed amendment is consistent and compatible with the current uses and zoning of the surrounding land. Proposed uses shall:

(i) Be serviced adequately by necessary public facilities such as highways, streets, public and fire protection, drainage structures, refuse disposal, water and sewers, and schools; or that the persons or agencies responsible for the establishment of the proposed use shall be able to provide adequately any such services;

(ii) Not create excessive additional requirements at public cost for public facilities and services, and will not be detrimental to the economic welfare of the community; or

(iii) If located within a nonindustrial urban growth area, the site shall:

(A) Be serviced by full urban services or be capable of receiving urban services in time to serve the development;

(B) Shall be done in a manner which will not preclude development at urban levels of density when the area is annexed into the city; and

(C) Must be five acres or more in size.

(3) The proposed project is provisionally approved, and will revert to the original zoning designation if project completion is not in compliance with schedules as included with the discretionary development permit, or if no discretional development permit is needed, within a reasonable time to be set by the hearing examiner. Bonds may be required as a condition of approval if deemed appropriate by the hearing examiner.

(4) Notwithstanding other language to the contrary, irregular boundaries that would result from a site-specific rezone proposal would not preclude the adoption of an otherwise satisfactory site-specific rezone.

(5) Site-specific rezones may be processed as concomitant rezones and may be processed concurrent with other land use approvals.

(6) Concomitant rezone shall not be used for a rezone to agriculture, commercial forestry, and rural forestry zoning districts. It may, however, be used for any situation where extraordinary potential adverse impacts from a proposed rezone may be mitigated by the agreement. The concomitant rezone process may be employed for rezones in sensitive geographic areas such as critical transportation corridors. Concomitant rezones shall generally be used when normal review and approval procedures are not adequate to resolve the specific issues involved in the rezone proposal.

(7) The concomitant rezone agreement may include mitigation measures such as access control, landscaping, screening, buffering, improvements to public services including drainage, sewer, water and roads, lot coverage restrictions and phasing of development.

(8) A conceptual site plan shall be required. The conceptual site plan shall be drawn at not less than one inch to 100 feet (unless mutually agreed to be the proponent and administrative official) and shall also include, but not be limited to:

(a) General location of the structures.

(b) Location and number of access points.

(c) Approximate gross floor area of structures.

(d) Name of the proposal.

(e) Identification of areas requiring special treatment due to their sensitive nature.

(f) North directional arrow.

(g) Names and locations of all public streets or roads boarding the site.

(h) General legal description(s) for the site.

.064 Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs).

(1) Designated Receiving Areas. Such additional areas may be approved through the process established for amendments to the official Whatcom County zoning map and pursuant to the procedures and requirements in this chapter.

(2) Rezone requests to increase residential density that have been submitted pursuant to this chapter shall be required to transfer development from a designated TDR sending area to obtain the requested density as a condition of approval.

(a) In order to obtain the requested density, one development right shall be transferred for every three additional dwelling units obtained through rezones within a designated urban growth area. The county council may modify this requirement if a development agreement has been entered into that specifies the elements of development within the rezone area. The development agreement should include, but not be limited to, affordable housing, density, allowed uses, bulk and setback standards, open space, parks, landscaping, buffers, critical areas, transportation and circulation, streetscapes, design standards and mitigation measures.

(b) Exceptions from requiring TDRs: rezones initiated by a government agency, correction of map errors, establishing one zoning district on a property with two or more zoning districts, zoning revisions that intended to make a nonconforming use a conforming use or rezones where the public interest is served.

(3) Rezones initiated by the county, cities or other agencies shall be subject to review by county and city planning staff, and the appropriate administrative bodies, to determine whether the subject site is appropriate for designation as a TDR receiving area. (Ord. 2008-060 Exh. A, 2008; Ord. 2004-044 § 1, 2004; Ord. 2004-007 § 1, 2004; Ord. 2000-016 § 1, 2000).

20.90.070 Transmittal of amendments to the state.

Pursuant to RCW 36.70A.106(3), the department of planning and development services shall notify and transmit copies of initiated amendments to this title and the official Whatcom County zoning map to the Washington State Department of Commerce at least 60 days prior to final adoption. The department of planning and development services shall also transmit a complete and accurate copy of zoning amendments to Commerce within 10 days after the enacting ordinance is signed by the county executive. (Ord. 2013-057 § 1 (Exh. A), 2013; Ord. 2004-007 § 1, 2004; Ord. 2000-016 § 1, 2000).

20.90.080 Maintenance of dockets and public review.

Repealed by Ord. 2008-060. (Ord. 2004-007 § 1, 2004; Ord. 2002-007 § 1, 2002; Ord. 2000-016 § 1, 2000).