Chapter 21.05
PRELIMINARY LONG SUBDIVISIONS*

Sections:

21.05.010    Purpose.

21.05.020    Requirement to obtain long subdivision approval.

21.05.030    Summary of preliminary long subdivision procedure.

21.05.031    Pre-application meeting.

21.05.032    Preliminary long subdivision application submittal.

21.05.033    Determination of completeness and vesting.

21.05.035    Preliminary application procedures.

21.05.036    Report to hearing examiner.

21.05.037    Hearing examiner notice, hearing and decision.

21.05.038    Approved preliminary long subdivision process.

21.05.039    Phasing, expiration and time extension for preliminary long subdivision approval.

21.05.040    Development requirements.

21.05.050    Roads.

21.05.060    Public and community sites.

21.05.070    Easements.

21.05.080    Water supply.

21.05.090    Sewage disposal.

21.05.100    Fire protection.

21.05.110    Modifications to approved preliminary long plats.

21.05.120    Requirements for a fully completed application for preliminary long subdivisions.

*Prior legislative history: Ord. 2009-007 repealed Ch. 21.05. Ords. 2000-056, 2002-017 and 2004-031 were formerly codified in the chapter.

21.05.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to establish or reference the procedure and requirements for the application, review and approval of subdivisions, also referred to as long subdivisions. The procedure is intended to provide orderly and expeditious processing of such applications. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.020 Requirement to obtain long subdivision approval.

All divisions of land into five or more parcels shall require long subdivision approval from Whatcom County unless:

(1) The division is specifically classified as an exemption under Chapter 21.01 WCC; or

(2) The division has received binding site plan approval. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.030 Summary of preliminary long subdivision procedure.

Review of a preliminary long subdivision involves:

(1) Pre-application meeting.

(2) Submittal of a preliminary application.

(3) Determination of completeness.

(4) Notice of application.

(5) Hearing examiner review and decision. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.031 Pre-application meeting.

(1) Pre-Application Meeting Required. Any person contemplating preparation of a preliminary long subdivision application shall submit information required for a pre-application meeting as provided in WCC 21.01.090 and Chapter 2.33 WCC. A pre-application meeting shall also be required for any alteration of an existing subdivision unless waived by the subdivision administrator.

(2) Pre-Application Submittal Information. An applicant shall provide the following information in order to assist the applicant and Whatcom County in review of the proposed subdivision:

(a) Written and Other Data and Fees.

(i) Name, address and phone number of owner(s), applicant, and contact person.

(ii) Intended uses.

(iii) List of variances and waivers requested.

(iv) General written proposal of water supply and sewage disposal method.

(v) Proposed means of stormwater control.

(vi) Assessor’s parcel number (of the parent parcel).

(vii) Fees as specified in the Unified Fee Schedule.

(viii) Net and gross lot size to determine minimum lot size and density requirements as required by the Zoning Ordinance.

(b) Map Data.

(i) Name of owner(s).

(ii) Name of proposed land division.

(iii) General layout of proposed land division.

(iv) Common language description of the general location of the land division.

(v) Approximate locations of existing roads, utilities, and infrastructure.

(vi) Vicinity map.

(vii) Plat map with a common engineering scale with north arrow and sheet numbers (on each sheet containing a map).

(viii) Section, township, range and municipal and county lines in the vicinity.

(ix) General boundaries of the site with general dimensions shown.

(x) General direction and gradient of slope.

(xi) Legal description of the land.

(xii) Proposed means and location of water service and sewage disposal.

(xiii) Proposed means and location of access (including proposed improvements to on-site and off-site roadways).

(xiv) Other proposed on-site and off-site utilities and facilities.

(xv) Location of existing roads, rights-of-way, buildings, parking, and drainage on-site.

(xvi) Where appropriate, location of natural features, including bodies of water, regulated watershed boundaries, natural drainage areas, critical areas, shorelines and base flood elevation and buffers.

(xvii) Location of existing facilities, sanitation and water facilities, easements (where appropriate).

(3) Applicant Presentation. At the pre-application meeting, the applicant shall, to the greatest extent possible, provide the technical review committee with a conceptual understanding of the potential application, including the location and the anticipated uses as provided in Chapter 2.33 WCC.

(4) Technical Review Committee Responsibilities. The technical review committee shall, to the greatest extent possible during the meeting, provide the applicant with consultation and input on the allowed uses, development standards, and process applicable to the proposal as provided in Chapter 2.33 WCC. Within 10 days of the pre-application meeting, staff shall communicate in writing the general findings and basis upon which an appropriate application may be submitted. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.032 Preliminary long subdivision application submittal.

(1) An applicant requesting approval based on the pre-application meeting response of a proposed preliminary subdivision shall submit to the planning and development services department all of the items required in WCC 21.05.120.

(2) An application will only be accepted for review if it contains all components required in WCC 21.05.120 and is accompanied by fees as set forth in the Unified Fee Schedule.

(3) Accepting an application for review does not mean that the application has been determined complete. The determination of completeness is made as provided in WCC 21.05.033.

(4) If an application does not contain all of the required components of a complete application, it will not be accepted for review, fees will not be collected, and the application will be returned to the applicant for completion of the required components of a complete application. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.033 Determination of completeness and vesting.

(1) The county shall review an application for determination of completeness and mail or provide in person a written determination to the applicant within 28 days of the date that the application has been accepted for review.

(2) An application shall be determined complete if the application includes all the requirements for a fully completed application set forth in WCC 21.05.120.

(3) Applications having received a determination of completeness shall be processed as described below and as provided in Chapter 2.33 WCC.

(4) Applications having received a determination of incompleteness shall be handled as provided in Chapter 2.33 WCC.

(5) If the application is granted a determination of completeness as provided in subsection (2) of this section on its first acceptance for review, the vesting date will be the date that the application was submitted for review. If an application is submitted within 30 days of receiving pre-application meeting findings from the technical review committee and granted a determination of completeness, then the date that the project is considered vested will be the date of pre-application submittal.

(6) Applications that have been re-submitted for review for determination of completeness will again be handled as described in WCC 21.05.032. A new date of acceptance for review will be placed on the application. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.035 Preliminary application procedures.

(1) Notice and Distribution. Upon receipt of a complete application and the payment of fees, the department of planning and development services shall:

(a) Provide notification in accordance with Chapter 2.33 WCC;

(b) Notify those agencies required by RCW 58.17.080;

(c) Notify and provide copies of project plans to a city when the subdivision is within that city’s urban growth area, agencies potentially having jurisdiction relevant to the application, and public utilities if within 660 feet (one-eighth mile) of the area submitted in the application. Such cities, agencies, and utility organizations shall be given 15 calendar days to respond. If they do not respond within 15 days, the administrator, SEPA official and technical review committee may conclude their review of the application without such comments.

(2) Within 60 calendar days after the application has been determined to be complete, the subdivision administrator shall receive comments and notify the applicant regarding whether modifications or corrections to the preliminary plat application would be required in order to receive a recommendation of approval from the subdivision administrator prior to consideration of the application by the hearing examiner.

(3) Preliminary plats of any proposed subdivision and dedication shall be approved, disapproved, or returned to the applicant for modification or correction within 90 days from date of filing thereof unless the applicant consents to an extension of such time; provided, that if an environmental impact statement is required as provided in RCW 43.21C.030, the 90-day period shall not include the time spent preparing and circulating the environmental impact statement by the local government agency. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.036 Report to hearing examiner.

The subdivision administrator shall prepare a final staff report (including all recommendations and all proposed conditions of approval) and submit it in written form to both the applicant and the Whatcom County hearing examiner. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.037 Hearing examiner notice, hearing and decision.

The hearing examiner shall schedule and hold an open record hearing, review the application and make a decision or recommendation, as appropriate, in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 20.92 WCC. Notice of the open record hearing shall be as set forth in Chapter 2.33 WCC.

(1) Review of a preliminary long subdivision shall be accompanied by written findings of fact and conclusions regarding the proposed development’s provisions for the following standards and criteria:

(a) Open spaces;

(b) Drainage ways and stormwater management;

(c) Streets or roads, pedestrian and bicycle paths, alleys, other public ways, transit stops, and other transportation facilities as required by concurrency standards;

(d) Potable water supplies;

(e) Sanitary wastes;

(f) Parks and recreation facilities and playgrounds;

(g) Schools and schoolgrounds, including sidewalks and other planning features that assure safe walking conditions for students who walk to and from school;

(h) Conformity with the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan;

(i) Conformity with applicable land division, zoning and development standards;

(j) Conformity with critical areas, shoreline management, other land use regulations;

(k) Conformity with Chapter 58.17 RCW; and

(l) A summary finding that the public health, safety, general welfare, use and public interest will be served by the platting of such subdivision and dedication.

(2) If the hearing examiner finds that all of the above standards and criteria have been met, the examiner may issue an approval of the proposed preliminary long plat application.

(3) If the hearing examiner finds that the above criteria are not met, the hearing examiner may take one of the following actions:

(a) Specify the issues that require additional information and give the applicant a period of time up to three months to address those issues and return to the hearing examiner for further consideration.

(b) Issue a conditional approval specifying the actions needing to be taken to resolve minor nonconformance with the standards and criteria, and granting a specific limited time, typically 30 days, within which the applicant is to return to the hearing examiner for review.

(c) Deny the application. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.038 Approved preliminary long subdivision process.

(1) Submittal of Approved Preliminary Long Subdivision. Upon issuance of preliminary long subdivision approval by the hearing examiner, the applicant shall, within 30 calendar days of preliminary long subdivision approval, submit four copies of a revised preliminary plat depicting modifications to the layout of lots, roads, open space, or any other geometrical changes to the plat that were required by conditions of approval of the preliminary plat by the hearing examiner.

(2) Review and Execution of Preliminary Long Subdivision. The hearing examiner shall review the preliminary plat and, if it complies with the terms of preliminary approval, the hearing examiner, property owner and surveyor shall sign the four copies of the preliminary long subdivision.

(3) Distribution of Executed Preliminary Long Subdivision. Once signed, one copy of the revised preliminary plat shall be given to the applicant, one copy shall be retained in the file of the hearing examiner, one copy shall be retained in the file of planning and development services, and one copy shall be retained in the file of the division of engineering. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.039 Phasing, expiration and time extension for preliminary long subdivision approval.

(1) Except as provided by subsection (1)(a) of this section, a final plat shall be submitted in proper form for final plat approval within seven years of the date of preliminary plat approval if the date of preliminary plat approval is on or before December 31, 2014, and within five years of the date of preliminary plat approval if the date of preliminary plat approval is on or after January 1, 2015.

(a) A final plat shall be submitted in proper form for final plat approval within 10 years of the date of preliminary plat approval if this project is not subject to requirements adopted under Chapter 90.58 RCW and the date of preliminary plat approval is on or before December 31, 2007.

(2) Extension of Time for Submittal of Final Long Subdivision. The expiration of a preliminary long subdivision approval may be extended under the following provisions:

(a) An applicant files a written request with the subdivision administrator prior to expiration of the five-year expiration period. The request shall state the specific work items, standards, and criteria which have not been completed and the reasons therefor. The request shall also indicate when the work will be completed within the requested period. The subdivision administrator shall review the request and provide a recommendation to the hearing examiner.

(b) The hearing examiner shall have authority to grant one one-year extension subsequent to the original preliminary plat approval.

(c) The one-year extension may be granted if, after taking into consideration technical, economic and other matters beyond the control of the applicant, the hearing examiner finds that there is reasonable justification for the granting of an extension.

(d) In granting the one-year extension the hearing examiner shall take into consideration such changes in rules, regulations, ordinances, or development standards, or portions thereof, that have occurred since the time the original approval was granted.

(e) The hearing examiner may condition the extension so as to require compliance with any such subsequently adopted rules, regulations, ordinances, or development standards, or portion thereof, that are deemed necessary to protect the public health, safety and welfare.

(3) Phased Subdivision. An applicant may seek approval of a phasing plan at the time of preliminary subdivision approval. If phasing is approved as part of a preliminary subdivision, the phasing plan shall expire 10 years from the date of preliminary approval. Each phase submitted after five years from the date of preliminary approval shall comply with the Whatcom County Development Standards in effect as of the date construction plans are submitted for each phase. (Ord. 2013-049 Exh. 1; Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.040 Development requirements.

(1) All subdivisions shall comply with the applicable standards, requirements and procedures of the Whatcom County Development Standards and local, state, and federal laws and regulations. The county, to the extent practicable, will require new land divisions located within city urban growth areas to conform to city development standards, in accordance with adopted ordinances.

(2) Improvements are required to be installed and completed by the subdivider prior to final subdivision approval, unless security is provided under WCC 21.06.040.

(3) Improvements and other requirements shall be provided to the extent that each phased subdivision will be adequately served by all roads, utilities, drainage facilities, easements and other amenities necessary to its existence in the event that subsequent phases are not completed, except on-site septic systems do not have to be installed unless required by the health officer. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.050 Roads.

Roads shall be designed with appropriate consideration for existing and projected roads, anticipated traffic patterns, topographic and drainage conditions, public convenience and safety, and the proposed uses of the land served.

(1) Dedications for the realignment and widening of the adjacent rights-of-way, in accordance with county standards, shall take place whenever a subdivision abuts a county road. Frontage roads or parallel access roads may be required to eliminate direct access to arterial and collector roads.

(2) Frontage improvements to the public roadway(s) adjacent to the subject property shall be completed to the current functional classification prior to recording the final plat, unless security is provided under WCC 21.06.040.

(3) Minor and local access roads should discourage through traffic.

(4) All subdivisions and phased subdivisions shall abut and be accessed by a constructed and maintained public road or a private road as allowed under the Whatcom County Development Standards. The number of access points shall create efficient on- and off-site circulation patterns and facilitate emergency response. A traffic analysis may be required by the county engineer in order to analyze present and future traffic circulation patterns to determine the appropriate location and number of access points to the site and to ascertain the appropriate classification and character of the proposed roads.

(5) Where reasonably necessary to join with existing roads or needed for future circulation, road rights-of-way and/or easements shall be extended to the outside boundaries of the subdivision.

(6) Public road rights-of-way and/or easements shall be extended to the boundaries of subdivisions that abut public lands and public bodies of water, if requested by the administrator of said public lands. Such access roads need not be provided at an interval more frequent than one-half mile.

(7) Private roads may be permitted in a subdivision when in compliance with the Whatcom County Development Standards. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.060 Public and community sites.

The dedication of sites for schools, parks, and other public or community purposes may be required to the extent that such dedication is suitable to and reasonable for the needs anticipated by full development of the subdivision. Dedicated school sites must meet the requirements of Chapter 246-366 WAC. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.070 Easements.

(1) Easements shall be provided where applicable for development-related facilities.

(2) All easements shown on long plats shall include:

(a) The beneficiary of the easement;

(b) The purpose of the easement; and

(c) A clear depiction of the easement (including dimensions) on the face of the long plat.

(3) The owner may specify the burdening of the easement. Examples of burdening may include the average daily trips for ingress and egress easements, the equivalent single-family units for water, sewer, and on-site sewage disposal systems and the maximum peak flow rate expressed in accepted units for drainage easements. The owners of the subservient estates are not entitled to rely upon the county to enforce the limitations of the easements so granted, and no cause of action shall lie against the county for errors or omissions occurring in connection with the administration of or issuance of permits for development of properties that burden the easements referred to herein. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.080 Water supply.

(1) Water from a public water system(s) shall be provided to serve each lot in a subdivision, except as specified in subsection (2) of this section.

(2) For a residential subdivision with six or fewer residences, private water supplies may be utilized under the following circumstances:

(a) All lots served by the private water supplies are five acres or larger, unless smaller because of clustering. If the lots are smaller because of clustering, the gross density of the subdivision shall not exceed one dwelling per five acres and the number of clustered lots shall not exceed four; and

(b) The withdrawal is not from a defined portion of an aquifer of known regional ground water contamination that exceeds state standards and that has been identified by the director of the health department and confirmed by the board of health; and

(c) The water source is ground water and not surface water; and

(d) If the subdivision is within the designated water service area of a public water purveyor that is shown on the coordinated water system plan map or within one-half mile of an existing water purveyor’s water lines:

(i) The water cannot be provided to the applicant within 120 calendar days of submitting a written request and applicable fees to the purveyor unless specified otherwise by the hearing examiner or county council; or

(ii) The purveyor states in writing that it is unable or unwilling to provide the service; or

(iii) The purveyor and applicant are unable to achieve an agreement on the schedule and terms of provision of service within 120 calendar days.

(3) The applicant shall demonstrate that adequate water right(s) exist to serve the subdivision, except when water withdrawal is exempt from obtaining a water right permit under RCW 90.44.050.

(4) If a Group B public water system is created to serve the subdivision, the number of wells shall be limited to the minimum needed to serve the water needs of the subdivision as determined by the health department.

(5) If a public water supply is required, all the requirements of Chapter 246-290 WAC, Group A Public Water Systems, or Chapter 246-291 WAC, Group B Public Water Systems, must be met prior to final plat approval. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.090 Sewage disposal.

(1) Within urban growth areas, public sewer shall be required in subdivisions unless the on-site sewage disposal requirements of WCC 24.05.210, Developments, subdivisions, and minimum land area requirements, can be met.

(2) Outside of the urban growth area and small town Comprehensive Plan designations, subdivisions shall not be approved that require extension or expansion of public sewer except when:

(a) Public sewer is necessary to protect the public health, safety or environment; and

(b) Public sewer is financially supportable at rural densities and does not permit urban development.

(3) On-site sewage disposal systems shall meet the requirements of WCC 24.05.210, Developments, subdivisions, and minimum land area requirements.

(4) All portions of a community on-site sewage system that are held in common ownership shall be constructed and approved prior to final plat approval. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.100 Fire protection.

Long subdivisions shall incorporate adequate capability for fire protection in accordance with sound engineering practices and locally adopted codes and development standards and shall be approved by the county fire marshal. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.110 Modifications to approved preliminary long plats.

(1) The technical review committee may approve minor changes to a preliminary long plat. In order to qualify as a minor change, the proposal must not adversely impact neighbors or the environment, and the density, uses and basic design of the approved preliminary long plat must be maintained.

(2) The hearing examiner or county council, whichever approved the original preliminary long plat, may approve major changes to the plat. Major changes are those that, in the opinion of the technical review committee, would adversely impact neighbors or the environment, alter the density, alter the uses, or alter the basic design of the preliminary long plat. The SEPA official shall review major changes and determine whether the original SEPA determination is still valid or a new determination required. The hearing examiner or county council shall hold a public hearing prior to issuing the decision. The appropriate city shall be notified of the request and given the opportunity to comment on major changes, if the land division is located within that city’s urban growth area. (Ord. 2009-007 § 1).

21.05.120 Requirements for a fully completed application for preliminary long subdivisions.

Upon completion of the pre-application review, and in response to the pre-application review letter, the applicant is authorized to prepare the subdivision application materials. The following requirements for a fully completed application, and any other information on a form prescribed by the subdivision administrator, must be provided in order to initiate a review for a determination of completeness.

(1) Written and Other Data and Fees.

(a) Completed application form.

(b) Name, address and phone number of owner(s), applicant, and contact person.

(c) Names, addresses and telephone numbers of the involved engineers, surveyors, and consultants.

(d) Intended uses.

(e) List of variances and waivers requested.

(f) Names and addresses of all persons, firms, and corporations holding legal interests in the land, such as easements, of which the applicant has knowledge.

(g) Assessor’s parcel number (of the parent parcel).

(h) List of names and addresses of owners of property within 300 feet of site’s boundaries (based on the latest assessor’s equalized tax roll) when within an urban growth area, or within 1,000 feet of site’s boundaries when outside an urban growth area, together with corresponding parcel numbers and assessor’s parcel map.

(i) Proposed covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs).

(j) SEPA checklist.

(k) Preliminary stormwater proposal.

(l) Preliminary traffic analysis.

(m) Proposed utilities.

(n) Critical area and soils reports, as specified in the applicable development standards. All reports shall be certified by qualified professionals experienced in the applicable field of science.

(o) Net and gross lot size to determine minimum lot size and density requirements as required by the Zoning Ordinance.

(p) Fees as specified in the Unified Fee Schedule.

(2) Map Data.

(a) Acceptable map size is 24 inches by 24 inches to 24 inches by 36 inches.

(b) Date of revisions, if any.

(c) Name of owner.

(d) Name, address, and telephone number of the surveyor or consultant preparing the map proposal.

(e) Name of proposed land division.

(f) Names or numbers of any adjacent divisions.

(g) General layout of proposed land division.

(h) Approximate locations of existing utilities, infrastructure, roads, drainage and rights-of-way within 300 feet of the boundary of the proposed land division.

(i) Vicinity map at a scale not less than one inch equals 2,000 feet.

(j) Common engineering scale (one inch equals 100 feet or larger), sheet numbers, and north arrow.

(k) Section, township, range, municipal and county lines in the vicinity.

(l) Location of monuments and fences located by any boundary survey and the date of the survey.

(m) General boundaries of the site with general dimensions shown, perimeter boundary marked with a bold line.

(n) Legal description of the land being subdivided.

(o) Proposed access (including proposed improvements to on-site and off-site roadways).

(p) Other proposed on-site or off-site utilities and facilities.

(q) The location and widths of all proposed roads, rights-of-way, and easements.

(r) When appropriate, location of natural features, including bodies of water, natural drainage areas, native vegetation, regulated watershed boundaries, critical areas, and buffers.

(s) Location of buildings, and parking on-site or contiguous to the site.

(t) General location of existing and proposed facilities, sanitation and water facilities, easements (where appropriate), landscaping, common areas, and phasing boundaries.

(u) General plans of proposed water distribution systems, sewage disposal systems, and drainage systems. The plans shall include system location and sizes, sources of water supply, location and size of storage reservoirs, location of drainage outlet, and other major features and shall be certified by a professional engineer.

(v) Layout of proposed alleys, walkways, bicycle paths, and parcels to be dedicated or reserved for school, park, playground, well site or other use.

(w) Sequential numbers to all lots within subdivision and identify proposed phases.

(x) Location of critical areas, shorelines and base flood elevation, where applicable.

(3) Additional Information.

(a) Title report.

(b) Written narrative of how the proposed preliminary plat will meet development and/or level of service standards for:

(i) Water supply.

(ii) Sewage disposal.

(iii) Fire protection service.

(iv) Public school system.

(c) Project area.

(d) Area in lots, square feet, and percentage of total.

(e) Zoning designation and zone density.

(f) Number of lots.

(g) Average lot size, area, and maximum lot size.

(h) Area of streets, area in rights-of-way, and percentage of total.

(i) Area of parks, open space, and percentage of total.

(j) Area of impervious surface proposed.

(k) Soil types and classifications.

(l) Utility service types and name of provider.

(m) School and fire district.

(n) Boundary survey, prepared and certified by a professional land surveyor.

(o) Additional reports as required at the pre-application meeting, prepared by qualified professionals, including but not limited to:

(i) Traffic impact analysis and concurrency study.

(ii) Stormwater design report.

(iii) Soils and/or geological report.

(iv) Wetlands delineation and/or critical areas assessment report.

(v) Soil testing results for pesticides for subdivisions on land historically used for raising row crops.

(p) Topographic map of sufficient contour interval, acceptable to the county engineer or subdivision administrator, to show the topography of the land to be subdivided.

(4) Eleven sets of the above required information shall be submitted. The subdivision administrator may require the applicant to submit the information in an electronic format, and may reduce the number of required sets if provided in an alternative format. (Ord. 2016-045 § 1 Att. A; Ord. 2009-007 § 1).