Chapter 21.01


21.01.010    Title.

21.01.020    Purpose.

21.01.030    Authority.

21.01.040    Applicability and exemptions.

21.01.050    Interpretation, conflict and severability.

21.01.060    Enforcement and penalties.

21.01.070    Fees.

21.01.080    Administrative responsibilities.

21.01.090    Pre-application meeting.

21.01.100    Applications required.

21.01.105    Consolidated application process.

21.01.110    Complete application.

21.01.120    Time frames.

21.01.130    Underground utilities.

21.01.140    Regulatory authority for development standards.

21.01.150    Repealed.

21.01.160    City urban growth areas.

21.01.170    Hearing examiner consultation with technical advisory committee.

21.01.010 Title.

This title shall be known and may be cited as the Whatcom County land division regulations. (Ord. 2013-040 Exh. 1; Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.020 Purpose.

The purpose of this title is:

(1) To promote the public health, safety, and general welfare, and to protect the natural resources and the environment.

(2) To provide for proper application of Chapter 58.17 RCW.

(3) To facilitate efficient and cost-effective land division and to ensure orderly growth and development consistent with the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan and the Whatcom County Code.

(4) To establish an orderly transition from existing land uses to urban development patterns in designated urban growth areas. (Ord. 2013-040 Exh. 1; Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.030 Authority.

This title is authorized pursuant to the authority delegated to Whatcom County under Chapter 58.17 RCW, Plats – Subdivisions – Dedications. (Ord. 2013-040 Exh. 1; Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.040 Applicability and exemptions.

(1) This title shall apply to property boundary actions as defined in this title.

(2) The subdivision and short subdivision provisions of this title shall not apply to:

(a) Cemeteries and other burial plots while used for that purpose;

(b) Divisions of land into lots or tracts none of which are smaller than 20 acres or 1/32 of a section of land and not containing a dedication; provided, that a certificate of exempt land division is obtained from Whatcom County in accordance with this title;

(c) Divisions made by testamentary provisions, or the laws of descent;

(d) Divisions of land into lots or tracts classified for industrial or commercial use when Whatcom County has approved a binding site plan for the use of the land in accordance with this title;

(e) A division for the purpose of lease when no residential structure other than mobile homes or travel trailers are permitted to be placed upon the land when Whatcom County has approved a binding site plan for the use of the land;

(f) A division made for the purpose of alteration by adjusting boundary lines, between platted or unplatted lots or both, which does not create any additional lot, tract, parcel, site, or division nor create any lot, tract, parcel, site, or division which contains insufficient area and dimension to meet minimum requirements for width and area for a building site in accordance with the provisions of this title;

(g) Divisions of land into lots or tracts pursuant to RCW 58.17.040(7); condominiums when Whatcom County has approved a binding site plan in accordance with the provisions of this title;

(h) A division for the purpose of leasing land for facilities providing personal wireless services while used for that purpose. “Personal wireless services” means any federally licensed personal wireless service. “Facilities” means unstaffed facilities that are used for the transmission or reception, or both, of wireless communication services including, but not necessarily limited to, antenna arrays, transmission cables, equipment shelters, and support structures;

(i) A division of land into lots or tracts of less than three acres that is recorded in accordance with Chapter 58.09 RCW and is used or to be used for the purpose of establishing a site for construction and operation of consumer-owned or investor-owned electric utility facilities. For purposes of this subsection, “electric utility facilities” means unstaffed facilities, except for the presence of security personnel, that are used for or in connection with or to facilitate the transmission, distribution, sale, or furnishing of electricity including, but not limited to, electric power substations. This subsection does not exempt a division of land from the zoning and permitting laws and regulations of cities, towns, counties, and municipal corporations. Furthermore, this subsection only applies to electric utility facilities that will be placed into service to meet the electrical needs of a utility’s existing and new customers. “New customers” are defined as electric service locations not already in existence as of the date that electric utility facilities subject to the provisions of this subsection are planned and constructed;

(j) Agricultural Lease. Divisions made for the purpose of lease for agricultural uses; provided, that each such leased parcel is a minimum of five acres or 1/128 of a section of land. The remaining portion of the parcel shall also be a minimum of five acres or 1/128 of a section of land. This exemption authorizes leasing the parcel but shall not authorize the sale of the parcel;

(k) Environmental Mitigation. Divisions of land for environmental mitigation, conservation or restoration; provided, that all of the following conditions are met:

(i) All lots are a minimum of five acres or 1/128 of a section of land.

(ii) Except as provided in subsection (k)(iii) of this section, all lots shall be used exclusively for:

(A) Environmental mitigation required under local, state or federal law; or

(B) Environmental conservation or restoration when a nonprofit nature conservancy corporation or association as defined by RCW 84.34.250 or public agency will own the lots.

(iii) If residential, commercial, or industrial buildings already exist, then one lot containing these buildings shall be created. This one lot shall not be subject to the requirements of subsection (k)(iv) of this section.

(iv) A permanent covenant acceptable to the director of planning and development services shall be recorded against each lot, except as provided in subsection (k)(iii) of this section. This covenant shall state the following:

(A) The lot shall be used exclusively for environmental mitigation, conservation or restoration.

(B) The lot shall not be further divided.

(C) New structures not necessary for environmental mitigation, conservation or restoration including residential, commercial and industrial development shall be prohibited.

(D) After recording, if the original purposes underlying the covenant can no longer be fulfilled and changed conditions warrant, the covenant may be revised with the consent of the county council, consistent with then-applicable policies and regulations.

(v) A legal description of the parcels created for environmental mitigation, conservation or restoration, prepared by a surveyor, shall be submitted to the planning and development services department for final approval and recordation.

(vi) Legal ingress and egress access of record is provided to the lots created by the exemption and verified by Whatcom County engineering. All access points to public roads shall be approved by the Whatcom County engineer or designee;

(l) Divisions of land into parcels of less than 40 acres but greater than 10 acres within the area zoned and designated as Agriculture in the Comprehensive Plan for Whatcom County proceeding in accordance with WCC 20.40.254(5).

(3) The following rules shall govern questions of precise applicability of these regulations to land divisions:

(a) Contiguous Parcels. All contiguous parcels of land in the same ownership shall be included within the boundaries of any proposed long or short subdivision of any of the properties. For the purpose of this section, the lots so situated shall be considered as one parcel; provided, that any of the contiguous parcels that are within a recorded long or short plat that was filed with the county auditor at least five years prior to the new land division shall not be required to be included if the lot or lots are in conformance with the applicable zoning standards.

(b) Pre-1972 Parcels. Parcels of land legally divided prior to the effective date of the ordinance codified in this title (as originally adopted February 3, 1972) shall be considered in accordance with land division laws and resolutions applicable at the time of plat recording per RCW 58.17.170 or other division. (Ord. 2013-040 Exh. 1; Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.050 Interpretation, conflict and severability.

(1) Minimal Interpretation. In their interpretation and application, the provisions of this title shall be held to be the minimum requirements.

(2) Interpret to Protect Public Welfare. In the event of any discrepancies between the requirements established herein and those contained in any other applicable regulation, code or program, the regulations which are more protective of the public health, safety and welfare shall apply.

(3) Severability. The provisions of this title are severable. If a section, sentence, clause, or phrase of this title is adjudged by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, the decision shall not affect the remaining portions of this title. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.060 Enforcement and penalties.

Enforcement and penalties shall be applied pursuant to Chapter 21.11 WCC. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.070 Fees.

All application, appeal, or other fees associated with this title shall be as set forth in the Whatcom County Unified Fee Schedule. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.080 Administrative responsibilities.

(1) The director of the planning and development services department or designee (hereinafter referred to as “director” or “subdivision administrator”) is designated as the official responsible for administering the provisions of these land division regulations.

(2) The Whatcom County planning and development services department shall act as a coordinating agent to ensure that the regulatory process is expeditious and shall recognize input provided by other officials, departments and divisions having appropriate expertise, including but not limited to the:

(a) Whatcom County SEPA official for environmental analysis;

(b) Whatcom County engineering for survey, monumentation, engineering design, road, stormwater management, drainage and utility improvements, and the form of plats and binding site plans;

(c) Whatcom County fire marshal for fire-related issues; and

(d) Whatcom County health and human services department for water supply and waste disposal. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.090 Pre-application meeting.

(1) Meeting Required When. For the purpose of expediting applications and reducing land division and site plan design and development costs, a pre-application meeting in accordance with the requirements of Chapter 2.33 WCC is required for all applications under this title except for boundary line adjustments and exempt land divisions covered by Chapter 21.03 WCC.

(2) City Participation. Whatcom County planning and development services staff shall invite the appropriate city to the pre-application meeting if the proposed land division is located within that city’s urban growth area. Invitation to the pre-application meeting for a short plat or preliminary plat adjacent to or within one mile of the municipal boundaries of a city, or which contemplates the use of any city utilities, shall also be given. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.100 Applications required.

The applicant is encouraged to seek assistance from the subdivision administrator as to which approvals are required for a particular proposal. One or more of the following applications may be required for a particular proposal:

(1) Exempt land division;

(2) Boundary line (lot line) adjustment;

(3) Short subdivision;

(4) Preliminary long subdivision;

(5) Final long subdivision;

(6) Subdivision vacations and alterations;

(7) Preliminary binding site plan;

(8) General binding site plan;

(9) Specific binding site plan;

(10) Agricultural short plat. (Ord. 2013-040 Exh. 1; Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.105 Consolidated application process.

The applicant may request consolidated permit review in accordance with the requirements of Chapter 2.33 WCC. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.01.110 Complete application.

All applications for subdivisions, binding site plans, short subdivisions, boundary line adjustments and other boundary actions covered by this title shall be reviewed for completeness in accordance with Chapter 2.33 WCC. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.120 Time frames.

Applications shall be processed within the time frames stipulated in Chapter 2.33 WCC. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.130 Underground utilities.

All on-site utilities that serve individual lots within a short subdivision, long subdivision or binding site plan shall be placed underground, unless the supplier of the service provides written documentation that underground installation is determined to be infeasible by development of specific findings, or the county requests above-ground utilities because of environmental constraints. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.140 Regulatory authority for development standards.

Administrative and technical requirements for implementing these regulations shall be contained in the Whatcom County development standards adopted pursuant to Chapter 12.08 WCC. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.150 Boundary discrepancies.

Repealed by Ord. 2009-007. (Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.160 City urban growth areas.

City development standards shall be addressed, in accordance with adopted ordinances, for land divisions located within a city’s urban growth area. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.01.170 Hearing examiner consultation with technical advisory committee.

The hearing examiner may choose to consult with the technical advisory committee concerning technical matters relating to land division applications. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).