Chapter 15.125


15.125.010    Existing nonconforming development.

15.125.020    Change of use.

15.125.030    Projections into required setbacks.

15.125.040    Variances.

15.125.050    Lot line adjustments.

15.125.060    Annexation.

15.125.070    Rezone – Definition – Basis.

15.125.080    Rezone – Procedure.

15.125.085    Rezone – Follow-up.

15.125.090    Comprehensive plan adoption and amendment – UDC amendments.

15.125.100    Amendments – Procedure.

15.125.110    Periodic revision of the comprehensive plan.

15.125.010 Existing nonconforming development.

(1) “Nonconforming development” means any property upon which is located a “nonconforming use” or a “nonconforming structure” as defined in this section.

(2) “Nonconforming use” means a use which was lawfully established but which does not conform to present regulations.

(3) “Nonconforming structures” are those:

(a) That were legally established and are nonconforming with regard to performance standards, such as setbacks, buffers or yards; area, bulk, height or density; or

(b)  For which a variance has been issued.

(4) Structures.

(a) A nonconforming structure may be maintained and repaired and may be enlarged or expanded; provided, that said enlargement or expansion does not increase the extent of nonconformity by further encroaching upon or extending into areas where construction or use would not be allowed for new development or uses. A nonconforming structure which is moved any distance must be brought into conformance with La Conner Municipal Code.

(b) A nonconforming structure may be expanded only pursuant to an administrative conditional use permit providing the expansion is not more than 20 percent of the existing structure, if approved using the following evaluation criteria:

(i) The impact of traffic generated by the proposed use on the surrounding area, pedestrian circulation and public safety, and the proposal’s ability to mitigate potential impacts.

(ii) The site has sufficient area to provide for off-street parking, landscaping and screening from adjacent uses.

(iii) Provides a service to the general area.

(iv) The adequacy of streets, utilities and public services to accommodate the proposed use.

(v) Compatibility of the proposed use or building to surrounding properties, especially as it relates to size, height, location and setback of buildings.

(vi) The number, size and location of signs and lighting, especially as they relate to more sensitive land uses.

(vii) The landscaping, buffering and screening of parking, loading and storage areas.

(viii) The generation of nuisance irritants such as noise, smoke, odor, glare, visual blight or other undesirable environmental impacts.

(ix) Consistency with the goals and policies of the comprehensive plan and the purpose of the zone in which it is located.

(x) Consistency with the environmental policies as stipulated in the SEPA ordinance.

(xi) Compliance with other provisions of this title and other town, state and federal regulations.

(c) Under no circumstances shall the expansion result in the following:

(i) Increasing the number of dwelling units further above the maximum allowed by the zoning code; or

(ii) Decreasing the number of off-street parking spaces further below the minimum required by the zoning code.

(5) Uses.

(a) Uses that were legally established and are nonconforming with regard to the use within the zone or district may continue as legal nonconforming uses. Such uses shall not be enlarged or expanded.

(b) A use that was listed as a conditional use prior to adoption of the current code or any relevant amendment and for which a conditional use permit has not been obtained shall be considered a nonconforming use.

(c) If a nonconforming use is discontinued for a period of six consecutive months, or if such use is superseded by a conforming use, the nonconforming use may not recommence. In addition, up to a maximum of three six-month extensions may be granted by the planning director following a written request; provided, that the planning director finds that the owner is actively marketing the property as its nonconforming use. It shall not be necessary to show that the owner of the property intends to abandon such nonconforming use in order for the nonconforming rights to expire.

(6) Restoration of Nonconforming Development. If a structure is: (a) a nonconforming structure that is damaged to an extent not exceeding 50 percent of the current replacement cost of the original structure, it may be reconstructed to those configurations existing immediately prior to the time the structure was damaged; provided, that application is made for the permits necessary to restore the structure within six months of the date the damage occurred, all permits are obtained and the restoration is completed within two years of permit issuance; or (b) a nonconforming structure listed on the historic buildings inventory that is damaged or destroyed, it may be rebuilt exactly as it existed prior to the damage or destruction. [Ord. 1077 § 1, 2012; Ord. 1014 § 1, 2008; Ord. 979 § 6, 2006; Ord. 931 § 3, 2004; Ord. 884 § 3, 2003; Ord. 791, 2000; Ord. 671 § 9.1, 1995.]

15.125.020 Change of use.

(1) The conversion of the use or the addition in square footage or the conversion of any dwelling so as to accommodate more dwelling units shall require a change of use permit prior to any such conversion or addition.

(2) The change of use shall be based on International Building Code (IBC) classifications for use or occupancy. A copy of the change of use permit shall be forwarded to the Skagit County permit center.

(3) For the purposes of this code, the conversion of an existing residential structure to housing for people with functional disabilities shall not be deemed a change of use. [Ord. 963 § 6, 2005; Ord. 671 § 9.2, 1995.]

15.125.030 Projections into required setbacks.

(1) Architectural features may not project into the required setbacks, except roof eaves may project into the setback a maximum of 12 inches.

(2) Open fire escapes may project a distance not exceeding 48 inches.

(3) An uncovered ground level patio, or underground structure, may extend to within three feet of a side lot line or within 10 feet of a front or rear lot line. [Ord. 1009 § 1, 2008; Ord. 671 § 9.3, 1995.]

15.125.040 Variances.

(1) Authority and Applicability.

(a) Hearing Examiner Variances (Type IV Permit). The hearing examiner shall have the authority to grant variances from the provisions of this code.

(b) Administrative Variances (Type II Permit). The planning director shall have the authority to grant variances from the following development standards when no other permit or approval requires hearing examiner review:

(i) Residential Land Uses. Lot dimensions, setbacks and allowed projections into setbacks; and

(ii) Commercial and Industrial Land Uses. Screening of surface and roof mounted equipment and landscaping requirements; and

(iii) Parking. Landscaping and screening requirements.

(c) Filing of Application. A property owner, or his duly authorized agent, may be required to file an application for a variance, which application shall set forth fully the grounds therefore and the facts deemed to justify the granting of such variance.

(d) Submittal Requirements and Application Fees. Shall be as listed in LCMC 15.135.070, Application for permit; and fees as approved by Council Resolution 236.

(e) Public Notice Requirements. Notice of the application shall be given pursuant to LCMC 15.135.110, Public notice requirements.

(2) Decision Criteria. The reviewing official shall have authority to grant a variance upon making a determination in writing that the conditions specified below have been found to exist. Under no circumstances shall the reviewing official grant a variance to allow a use not permissible under the terms of this code in the district involved on any use expressly, or by implication, prohibited by the terms of this code in said district. Variances shall only be granted when the applicant demonstrates that all of the following conditions are met:

(a) That special conditions and circumstances exist which are peculiar to the land, structure, or building involved and which are not applicable to other lands, structures, or buildings in the same district;

(b) That literal interpretation of the provisions of this code would deprive the applicant of rights commonly enjoyed by other properties in the same district under the terms of this code;

(c) That the special conditions and circumstances do not result from the actions of the applicant;

(d) That granting of the variance requested will not confer on the applicant any special privilege that is denied by this code to other lands, structures, or buildings in the same district;

(e) That the granting of the variance will be in harmony with the general purpose and intent of this code will not be injurious to the neighborhood, or otherwise detrimental to public welfare.

(3) Findings by the Reviewing Official. The reviewing official shall grant a variance only upon finding that the application satisfies all the foregoing criteria. [Ord. 901 § 5, 2003; Ord. 842 § 8, 2002; Ord. 743 § 4, 1999; Ord. 671 § 9.4, 1995.]

15.125.050 Lot line adjustments.

(1) Lot lines may be adjusted between legal lots of record; provided, that no lot conforming to the minimum lot size requirement of the district is reduced below that minimum lot size, and any lot changed by the lot line adjustment shall satisfy, or not decrease, compliance with the minimum width, depth, frontage, yard and setback requirements of the district, and off-street parking requirements for existing uses are satisfied.

(2) Lot line adjustments may be allowed between undersized lots in any district; provided, that the resulting lots satisfy the minimum width, depth, frontage, and yard requirements of the district, and setbacks to existing structures are not reduced by the lot line adjustment below the minimum setback requirements, and off-street parking requirements for existing uses are satisfied. [Ord. 671 § 9.5, 1995.]

15.125.060 Annexation.

(1) Proposed annexations to the town of La Conner shall be considered and processed under the provisions of Chapter 35.13 RCW, Annexation of Unincorporated Areas.

(2) Applications shall be submitted to the town clerk on forms provided by the town together with any fees and information required for processing the application.

(3) The following criteria shall be considered during a review of a proposal for annexation:

(a) Preservation of natural neighborhoods and communities;

(b) Use of physical boundaries, including but not limited to bodies of water, highways, and land contours;

(c) Creation and preservation of logical service areas;

(d) Prevention of abnormally irregular boundaries;

(e) Adjustment of impractical boundaries;

(f) Protection of agricultural and rural lands which are designated for long-term productive agricultural and resource use by a comprehensive plan adopted by the county.

(4) The town clerk shall have the responsibility for administering the annexation process. [Ord. 671 § 9.6, 1995.]

15.125.070 Rezone – Definition – Basis.

(1) Zoning is defined as the legislative division of a community into areas in which are permitted only certain designated uses or land structures. A rezone authorizes uses on property that differ substantially from terms of the prior zoning designation.

(2) Rezones must be based on a change of circumstances or community needs. They cannot be based exclusively on the desires of public interest groups. The property owner/applicant must prove that a parcel-specific rezone is valid.

(3) Rezones must conform to the comprehensive plan and benefit the public. [Ord. 671 § 9.7.A – C, 1995.]

15.125.080 Rezone – Procedure.

(1) An application for rezone shall be submitted to the town clerk on a form provided by the town, a fee as set by the town council payable to the town of La Conner, and any other applicable information as required for processing the application.

(2) Information submitted with the application shall include the following:

(a) A completed SEPA environmental checklist;

(b) A statement of how the rezone would meet the goals and policies of the comprehensive plan;

(3) The planning director shall:

(a) Review the application and SEPA checklist and make a threshold determination for publication.

(b) Notify the applicant that the application has been received and a date set for a public hearing by the planning commission.

(c) Prepare a staff report and make a recommendation based on findings to the planning commission.

(4) The town clerk shall:

(a) Publish two notices of public hearing at least 10 days before the public hearing by the planning commission.

(b) Send notices to all property owners of record within 300 feet of the rezone site. Addresses for mail notice shall be based on the current Skagit County assessor’s office records or obtained from a title company doing business in Skagit County.

(c) Post the notice of rezone on the property.

(5) The planning commission shall make a recommendation to the town council based on the staff report, testimony received at the public hearing, and the following criteria:

(a) Consistency with the comprehensive plan;

(b) Environmental impacts;

(c) Potential use. [Ord. 1211 § 2(A), 2022; Ord. 842 § 5, 2002; Ord. 671 § 9.7.D, 1995.]

15.125.085 Rezone – Follow-up.

At a convenient time, within three years after a rezone action, the town council will conduct a public hearing to take input on the impact that the rezone has had on the community. This is in compliance with the spirit of RCW 36.70A.070(6), which mandates concurrency for transportation impacts associated with development, but should also include an examination of other impacts on the community. [Ord. 963 § 9, 2005.]

15.125.090 Comprehensive plan adoption and amendment – UDC amendments.

(1) Proposed amendments to this code or the comprehensive plan may be submitted by the town council, planning commission or by any affected citizen or property owner by applying to the department of planning and development. Amendments must be adopted, certified, and recorded or filed in accordance with RCW 35.63.100.

(2) The town council will consider amendments to the comprehensive plan not more than annually except for emergencies. Formal application for comprehensive plan amendments shall be submitted by January 15th for consideration the following year. Application for preapplication review is recommended to occur by November 1st of the prior year. Comprehensive plan amendments shall be given the highest priority in the planning commission’s work program, and review shall be initiated within the second quarter of the work year.

(3) The proposal shall demonstrate that the requested amendment is timely and meets at least one of the following criteria:

(a) The request supports the vision embodied in the comprehensive plan; or

(b) The request supports the adopted goals and policies of the town council as expressed through the comprehensive plan, uniform development code, and shoreline master program; or

(c) The request eliminates conflict with existing elements or policies; or

(d) The request amends the comprehensive plan to accommodate new policy directives of the town council.

Proposals that include a concurrent rezone request shall also comply with the decision criteria for a change of zone classification in LCMC 15.125.070 for the rezone portions of the application.

To maintain consistency with the comprehensive plan, any rezoning that would be required by approval of the proposed amendments to the comprehensive plan shall be considered concurrently with the proposed comprehensive plan changes.

(4) The uniform development code may be amended at any time. [Ord. 856, 2002; Ord. 671 § 9.8.A – C, 1995.]

15.125.100 Amendments – Procedure.

(1) An application for amendment to the UDC or the comprehensive plan shall include a SEPA checklist. The department of planning and development shall make a threshold determination, publish findings, solicit comments from the public in the local newspaper, and set a date for a public hearing by the planning commission following the end of the comment period.

(2) The director of planning and development shall publish the notice of public hearing.

(3) Review of Formal Applications for Comprehensive Plan Amendments. The planning commission shall review technical studies and other pertinent information as needed prior to making a recommendation to the town council on the merits of the application.

(4) The planning commission shall hold the public hearing and review the application for amendments to the UDC and the comprehensive plan based on the following considerations:

(a) The proposal demonstrates that the requested amendment is timely and meets at least one of the criteria in LCMC 15.125.090(3);

(b) The proposed amendment is consistent with the goals and policies of the comprehensive plan;

(c) The proposed amendment will not adversely impact the general health, safety, and welfare of the community;

(d) Recommendations of staff and public input.

(5) The planning commission shall submit a written recommendation to the town council that:

(a) Identifies any provisions of this code, comprehensive plan, or other law relating to the proposed change and describes how the proposal relates to them;

(b) States factual and policy considerations pertaining to the recommendation;

(c) Includes written comments, if any, received from the public.

(6) The council will hold a public hearing, make modifications if necessary, and adopt or reject the proposed amendment to the UDC or the comprehensive plan or enact a modified proposal or remand the proposed amendments back to the planning commission for reconsideration with guidance from the council that is within the scope of matters considered in the hearing. [Ord. 898 § 7, 2003; Ord. 856, 2002; Ord. 671 § 9.8.D, 1995.]

15.125.110 Periodic revision of the comprehensive plan.

(1) In order for the plan to remain effective, it should be reviewed periodically. Conditions might change, and unforeseen events may occur, which might necessitate a re-evaluation. In accordance with RCW 36.70A.130, at least every five years the town shall take action to review and, if needed, revise the comprehensive land use plan and development regulations to ensure that the plan and regulations are complying with the requirements of Chapter 36.70A RCW. The comprehensive plan may also be revised through annual amendments as allowed by the Growth Management Act, or in an emergency.

(2) The department of planning and development shall maintain a docket file containing issues, errors, omissions and other materials pertinent to amendment of the comprehensive plan and uniform development code. The UDC may be amended at any time including concurrently with the annual comprehensive plan update. The department shall submit a staff report regarding the materials as a part of the annual update process LCMC 15.125.090(2). The planning commission will review each docket item and prepare a recommendation to the town council for review. [Ord. 856, 2002.]