Chapter 16.70


16.70.010    Title.

16.70.020    Authority.

16.70.030    Purpose.

16.70.040    Definitions.

16.70.050    Relationship to other permits.

16.70.060    Regulated activity.

16.70.070    Performance standards.

16.70.080    Exempt activity.

16.70.090    Minor grading.

16.70.100    Major grading.

16.70.110    Approval.

16.70.120    Fees/bonds.

16.70.130    Inspection.

16.70.140    Enforcement – Violation – Penalty.

16.70.160    Severability.

16.70.010 Title.

This chapter shall be known as the grading chapter of the Bellingham Municipal Code. [Ord. 10677 § 3, 1995].

16.70.020 Authority.

Article 11 of the Washington State Constitution. [Ord. 10677 § 3, 1995].

16.70.030 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to:

A. Provide an efficient and appropriate process for managing grading activities within the city.

B. Require advance site planning to improve the utility of lands within the city while preventing waste and harmful impacts to natural resources and public and private property.

C. Maintain a safe and health community.

D. Provide for adequate enforcement of the provisions contained herein.

E. Minimize soil disturbance and native vegetation loss caused by development activity. [Ord. 2017-03-009 § 7; Ord. 10677 § 3, 1995].

16.70.040 Definitions.

“Active grading site” means a permitted site, in regular use, which has been inspected by the PCDD within one year of issuance of a grading permit and is in conformance with this chapter.

“Clay soil” means a plastic, smooth, sticky soil with mineral particles typically less than 0.002 millimeters in diameter.

“Developed residential land” means a lot or parcel which may not be further subdivided, is at maximum allowable density and which is presently occupied by one or more residential buildings.

“Director” means the director of the planning and community development department.

“Erosion controls” means a combination of methods and materials which prevent the transport of dirt, mud or silt off site or in undesirable directions.

“Grading” means the movement of soil in the form of excavation and/or placement of fill.

“Granular soil” means mineral soil consisting of particles over 0.05 millimeters in diameter, remains loose when crumbled and does not exhibit cohesive properties.

“Land-disturbing activity” means any activity that results in movement of earth, or a change in the existing soil cover (both vegetative and nonvegetative) and/or the existing soil topography. Land-disturbing activities include, but are not limited to, clearing, grading, filling, and excavation. Compaction that is associated with stabilization of structures and road construction shall also be considered a land-disturbing activity. Vegetation maintenance practices or gardening are not generally considered land-disturbing activity with the noted exception of the placement of phosphorus-containing materials within the Lake Whatcom watershed.

“Major grading” means a nonexempt grading action over 500 cubic yards.

“Minor grading” means a nonexempt grading action of 500 cubic yards or less permitted once every five years.

“Nonstructural fill” means fills for disposal of spoils, general topographic reshaping, berming or other applications where load bearing, settlement and stability are not of concern for future building purposes.

“PCDD” means the planning and community development department.

“Performance standard” means a generalized standard established for all grading activities. Specific methods to meet the standard may be determined by a qualified professional consultant subject to approval by appropriate city departments.

“Self-contained site” means a lot, parcel or land assemblage free of environmental constraints, which is distinctly separated from adjacent parcels by virtue of topography, physical barriers, vegetative screening, drainage networks and the like which would prevent any significant disruption or impact on adjacent properties as a result of a particular grading activity. The director shall determine whether a site is self-contained.

“SEPA” means State Environmental Policy Act.

“Site closure” means a completed grading action which has been stabilized and inspected by the city.

“Site plan” means a clear, concise drawing of a lot or parcel showing the location of existing and proposed buildings, driveways, parking, utilities, drainage, easements, landscaping, topography, environmentally sensitive areas, and other site features as may be relevant.

“Structural fill” means fill which must be properly placed and compacted for the purposes of building pads, parking or other structures which may be placed on top thereof.

“Violation” means noncompliance with the provisions of this chapter. [Ord. 2014-03-009 § 8; Ord. 10677 § 3, 1995].

16.70.050 Relationship to other permits.

Grading permit applications shall be reviewed under the auspices of this chapter as well as Chapter 16.60 BMC, Land Clearing, the stormwater management ordinance, critical areas ordinance, shoreline master program and other applicable regulatory provisions as may be required by law.

Nonexempt grading is permitted only when an associated development permit is issued. PCDD staff will review applications and coordinate with other departments for code compliance. For example, nonexempt grading activities will also be reviewed by the public works department for consistency with Chapter 15.42 BMC, Stormwater Management. [Ord. 2017-03-009 § 9; Ord. 10677 § 3, 1995].

16.70.060 Regulated activity.

All grading within the city shall be in compliance with the provisions of this chapter. [Ord. 10677 § 3, 1995].

16.70.070 Performance standards.

The following performance standards shall apply to all grading actions within the city. Each grading action will require:

A. Written permission from the legal property owner(s) if performed by a non-owner.

B. Compliance with all applicable ordinances and zoning provisions.

C. Identification of property corners and lines by staking or flagging when working in close proximity (10 feet) to abutting properties.

D. Location and protection of underground utilities, storage tanks, septic systems or other potential hazards which may reasonably be anticipated to exist.

E. A proper vehicle access point such as a crushed rock entrance sufficient to prevent the transport of dirt, mud or debris off site.

F. Work site perimeter containment/erosion control sufficient to prevent the transport of earth materials or silt contaminated stormwater runoff off site or onto rights-of-way, into water bodies, drainage courses or environmentally sensitive areas.

G. A sequencing schedule shall be provided for any construction project to address timing of land-disturbing activities during periods when soils are most exposed to erosion from wind, rain, runoff, and vehicle tracking. If land-disturbing activity is proposed between October 1st and May 31st, the applicant shall provide a wet weather erosion control plan implementing the BMPs in the Ecology Manual, to be reviewed and approved by the PCDD and public works directors.

H. Prevention of any damage or nuisance to adjacent public or private properties, structures, facilities or occupants.

I. Maintenance of the property and work site in a safe and stable condition. [Ord. 2014-03-009 § 10; Ord. 10677 § 3, 1995].

16.70.080 Exempt activity.

A grading action is exempt from the provisions of BMC 16.70.090 if it satisfies one of the criteria listed in subsections (A) through (H) of this section. Exempt grading actions must still comply with the performance standards listed above and all other applicable laws such as, but not limited to, Chapter 15.42 BMC, Stormwater Management.

A. Structural fill, including foundation and retaining wall preparation for structures requiring a building permit, in conformance with the grading chapter of the International Building Code, published by the International Conference of Building Officials.

B. Grading covered within a planned contract, preliminary plat, shoreline substantial development permit, critical areas permit or public services contract if specifically addressed within the document or permit.

C. Gravel mining regulated by and pursuant to a permit issued by the State Department of Natural Resources.

D. Cemetery graves, wells, utility trenches, stockpiling of landscaping or construction materials as allowed by underlying zoning, or exploratory excavations under the direction of an engineer or geologist.

E. Earth moving without import or export on a self-contained site.

F. Placement of topsoil for landscaping not exceeding one foot in depth, gravel for residential driveways, or similar superficial applications as determined by the director.

G. Grading within any developed residential land not to exceed 100 cubic yards.

H. The grading action satisfies all of the following criteria:

1. Grading of less than 100 cubic yards.

2. Cut, fill or excavation less than five feet in vertical dimension that will maintain a two-foot horizontal dimension to one-foot vertical dimension slope ratio.

3. The existing groundslope does not exceed a two-foot horizontal to a one-foot vertical slope ratio.

4. The grading action is not within shoreline, floodplain or wetland and stream ordinance jurisdiction.

5. Complies with zoning setbacks for structure.

6. Is the only exempt grading action to occur within a five-year period on an individual lot or series of lots in contiguous ownership. [Ord. 2017-03-009 § 11; Ord. 10677 § 3, 1995].

16.70.090 Minor grading.

A. Application for Grading 500 Cubic Yards or Less. Anyone who wishes to perform a nonexempt grading activity involving 500 cubic yards or less shall complete and submit to the PCDD a grading application on forms provided by the PCDD which provides the following information (Attachment A to the ordinance codified in this chapter):

1. Parcel number or legal description of lot or parcel, name, address and phone numbers for the legal owner and operator.

2. A clear, concise site plan of appropriate scale showing the entire parcel, the work area and all relevant features including topography, existing and proposed structures, roads, utilities, drainage courses, water bodies, potential hazards and vehicle access points.

3. A schematic description of the grading work to be performed including total volume of earthwork, before and after dimensioned footprints, depth, elevation, slopes and cross sections.

4. Source of fill if imported, destination if exported, duration of activity with start and end dates.

5. An erosion control and drainage plan consistent with the requirements of the stormwater management ordinance administered by the public works department.

6. Process. Applications for grading approval shall follow the procedures in Chapter 21.10 BMC.

B. Conditions.

1. All performance standards listed in BMC 16.70.070 shall apply.

2. All cuts and fills shall maintain a horizontal property line setback equal to one-half the maximum vertical cut or depth of fill; in addition, the maximum side slope shall be two-foot horizontal to one-foot vertical ratio, unless plans are provided by a licensed engineer.

3. The director may require additional conditions as may be necessary to protect the public health, safety and welfare such as requiring dust control, soil contamination testing or limiting work hours. [Ord. 2004-09-065; Ord. 10677 § 3, 1995].

16.70.100 Major grading.

A. Application for Grading More Than 500 Cubic Yards. Anyone who wishes to perform a major grading activity involving more than 500 cubic yards shall complete and submit to PCDD a grading permit application on forms approved by PCDD which provide the following information in addition to the application information described in BMC 16.70.090 (Attachment A to the ordinance codified in this chapter).

1. Submit a SEPA checklist and other information as outlined in Attachment A to the ordinance codified in this chapter.

2. Technical analysis is required when the proposal involves:

a. A cut of more than five feet; or

b. Fill steeper than two horizontal feet for every one vertical foot; or

c. Fill is nongranular; or

d. Drainage courses will be altered.

At the discretion of the director, the technical analysis may be required to be provided by a licensed engineer.

3. Process. Applications for grading approval shall follow the procedures in Chapter 21.10 BMC.

B. Conditions. All conditions listed in BMC 16.70.090 shall apply. [Ord. 2004-09-065; Ord. 10677 § 3, 1995].

16.70.110 Approval.

Prior to undertaking any nonexempt grading activity regulated by this chapter, any person who proposes such activity shall obtain a grading permit from the PCDD. The PCDD shall review the application and prior to issuing a grading permit shall determine that:

A. The application complies with the provisions of this chapter and other applicable laws.

B. A SEPA determination has been made when applicable.

C. The proposed grading plan is in conformance with the stormwater management ordinance and Chapter 16.60 BMC, Land Clearing.

D. Any required notice has been mailed to abutting property owners.

E. Required erosion control has been installed and inspected. [Ord. 10677 § 3, 1995].

16.70.120 Fees/bonds.

A. Fees. Applicants for a nonexempt grading permit shall pay a fee as established by the city council as set by resolution.

B. Bonds.

1. Public Facilities. If in the opinion of the planning and community development department director or the public works department director there exists significant risk of damage to public facilities such as roadways or utilities, either may require the establishment of a bond for potential repair or replacement of such facilities. The amount and duration of this bond shall be based upon the cost of repair or replacement, and shall be set by the public works department.

A bond may be reduced or waived for those grading contractors on a preapproved list as determined by the public works department.

2. Performance. If in the opinion of the PCDD director there exists significant risk of damage to public or private properties or natural resources if a grading action were to be improperly performed or completed, the director may require a performance bond sufficient to ensure proper completion of the grading activity in accordance with the permit requirements. The amount and duration of the bond shall be set by the director. [Ord. 10677 § 3, 1995].

16.70.130 Inspection.

PCDD or public works department staff shall inspect all grading sites requiring permits to verify that erosion control has been properly installed prior to grading permit issuance.

Upon completion of the grading activity, the above staff will also inspect to see that permit conditions have been satisfied and the site is properly stabilized and/or contained.

Further development permits, building permits or certificates of occupancy shall not be granted for the subject property until the grading permit conditions have been satisfied or revised, permitting additional actions. Satisfaction of permit conditions shall constitute site closure. [Ord. 10677 § 3, 1995].

16.70.140 Enforcement – Violation – Penalty.

The city, its agents, officers, and employees shall have authority to enter upon privately owned land for the purpose of performing their duties under this chapter and may take or cause to be made such examinations, surveys, or sampling as the city deems necessary.

The director has the authority to enforce this chapter and grading regulations regulated thereunder. All costs, fees, and expenses in connection with such enforcement actions may be recovered as damages against the violator.

Law enforcement officials or other enforcement officials having police powers shall have concurrent authority to enforce this chapter and grading activities regulated hereunder.

Any person who commits, takes part in, or assists in any violation of any provision of this chapter is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be fined not more than $1,000 for each offense. Each violation of this act shall be a separate offense, and in the case of a continuing violation each day’s continuance shall be deemed to be a separate and distinct offense.

Should an activity occur and it is later discovered that the activity is occurring in violation of this chapter, the director shall have the authority to issue a stop work order and all activity shall cease until such time as the applicant or violator can meet the requirements of this chapter.

In the event of a violation, the director shall have the authority to order restoration measures for the damaged or destroyed area by the person or agent responsible for the violation. If the responsible person or agent does not complete such measures within a reasonable time specified by the director following the order, the city of Bellingham may restore the affected area to its prior condition. The person or agent responsible for the original violation shall be liable to the city of Bellingham for the cost of such actions. [Ord. 2013-02-006 § 8; Ord. 10677 § 3, 1995].

16.70.160 Severability.

Should any section, clause, designation, or provisions of this chapter be declared by the courts to be invalid, the same shall not affect the validity of the chapter as a whole or any part thereof, other than the part so declared to be invalid. [Ord. 10677 § 3, 1995].