Chapter 21.02
VARIANCES, APPEALS AND AMENDMENTS

Sections:

21.02.010    Variances.

21.02.020    Notification of cities.

21.02.030    Appeals.

21.02.040    Amendments – Advance notice.

21.02.010 Variances.

The hearing examiner, or in the case of short subdivisions, the technical review committee, shall have authority to grant a variance from the provisions of this title when they have found the conditions set forth below to exist. In such cases, a variance may be granted which is in harmony with the general purpose and intent of this title so that the intent of this title shall be observed, and public health, safety and welfare secured.

A variance may be granted only when all of the following circumstances listed in either subsection (1) or (2) of this section are found to apply. Applicants shall specify which criteria set they are proposing to qualify for a variance under and shall provide information to the county demonstrating compliance with that criteria set before a variance may be granted.

(1) Variance to Alleviate Unnecessary Hardship.

(a) Any variance granted shall not constitute a grant of special privilege, be based upon reasons of hardship caused by previous actions of the property owner, nor be granted for financial reasons alone.

(b) The strict application of these regulations would cause a hardship because of special circumstances applicable to the subject property, including size, shape, topography, environmental constraints or location. Aesthetic considerations or design preferences without reference to restrictions based upon the physical characteristics of the property do not constitute sufficient hardship under this section.

(c) The granting of the variance will not be detrimental to the public health, safety, or welfare or injurious to other property.

(2) Variance to Achieve Better Design.

(a) Any variance granted shall not constitute a grant of special privilege or be based upon reasons of hardship caused by previous actions of the property owner, nor be granted for financial reasons alone.

(b) The granting of the variance results in better lot design than would be permitted under the standard regulations. “Better lot design” is defined as meaning such items as more practical site design because of topography, wetland or other environmental constraints, or the lot design will result in lots nearer to conformance to required development standards or applicable Comprehensive Plan goals and policies, including those relating to urban growth areas.

(c) The granting of any variance will not be unduly detrimental to the public welfare nor injurious to the property or improvements in the vicinity and subarea in which the subject property is located.

(d) In granting variances and modifications, the hearing examiner or technical review committee, as appropriate, may require such conditions as will in its judgement secure substantially the objectives of the requirements so varied.

(3) A decision on a variance application by the technical review committee or by the hearing examiner shall be accompanied by specific written findings addressing each of the applicable criteria. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.02.020 Notification of cities.

Notice of a hearing or technical review committee meeting for variances shall be provided to the appropriate city, if the land division is located within that city’s urban growth area. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.02.030 Appeals.

(1) Any final order, requirement, permit decision or determination issued by Whatcom County shall include a notice to the applicant of his or her appeal rights.

(2) The hearing examiner shall have the authority to create a record, hear and decide, in conformity with this title, appeals from any order, requirement, permit decision or determination made by an administrative official or committee in the administration or enforcement of this title. Such appeal shall be filed in writing within 14 calendar days of the action being appealed at the planning and development services department. The appeal shall follow all rules and procedures for appeals to the hearing examiner as set forth in Chapter 20.92 WCC.

(3) Within 10 calendar days of its issuance, any party of record may appeal a decision of the hearing examiner to the county council. The examiner’s decision may be overturned by a simple majority of the council if it is found that the examiner’s decision is based upon an error of law or is clearly erroneous based on the entire record. The appeal shall follow all rules and procedures for appeals to the county council as set forth in Chapter 20.92 WCC.

(4) Appeals related to development standards shall be made to the technical advisory committee as required by WCC 12.08.035(I). (Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).

21.02.040 Amendments – Advance notice.

Notice of the time, place and purpose of any public hearing regarding the amendment, adoption or repeal of an ordinance adopted pursuant to Chapter 58.17 RCW shall be given by at least one publication in a newspaper of general circulation in Whatcom County at least 10 calendar days before the hearing. Advance notification shall also be provided by mail to individuals or organizations that have submitted requests for notice at least 10 calendar days prior to the hearing. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1; Ord. 2000-056 § 1).