Chapter 18E.20
USE AND ACTIVITY REGULATIONS Revised 6/19

Sections:

18E.20.010    Permitted Uses. Revised 6/19

18E.20.020    Regulated Uses and Activities.

18E.20.030    Exemptions. Revised 6/19

18E.20.035    Review Waiver Allowances. Revised 6/19

18E.20.040    Nonconforming Uses and Structures.

18E.20.050    Reasonable Use Exceptions.

18E.20.060    Variances.

18E.20.070    Substantial Improvement and Substantial Damage.

18E.20.080    Current Use Assessment.

18E.20.010 Permitted Uses. Revised 6/19

Uses permitted on properties containing critical areas shall be the same as those permitted in the zone classification shown in the Pierce County Zoning Atlas or those permitted in the Shoreline Environment Designation (SED) unless specifically prohibited by this Title. (Ord. 2013-45s4 § 4 (part), 2015; Ord. 2004-56s § 4 (part), 2004)

18E.20.020 Regulated Uses and Activities.

A.    Unless the requirements of this Title are met, Pierce County shall not grant any approval or permission to alter the condition of any land, water, or vegetation, or to construct or alter any structure or improvement regulated through the following: building permit, commercial or residential; binding site plan; franchise right-of-way construction permit; site development permit; right-of-way permit; shoreline permits; short subdivision; large lots; use permits; subdivision; utility permits; or any subsequently adopted permit or required approval not expressly exempted by this Chapter.

B.    The following activities are regulated within critical fish and wildlife habitat areas, wetlands, aquifer recharge areas, landslide hazard areas, erosion hazard areas, flood hazard areas, and/or their buffers unless exempted by PCC 18E.20.030:

1.    Removing, excavating, disturbing, or dredging soil, sand, gravel, minerals, organic matter, or materials of any kind;

2.    Dumping, discharging, or filling;

3.    Draining, flooding, or disturbing the water level or water table. In addition, an activity which involves intentional draining, flooding, or disturbing the water level or water table in a wetland or stream in which the activity itself occurs outside the regulated area may be considered a regulated activity;

4.    Driving piling or placing obstructions, including placement of utilities;

5.    Constructing, reconstructing, demolishing, or altering the size of any structure or infrastructure;

6.    Altering the character of a regulated area by destroying or altering vegetation through clearing, harvesting, cutting, intentional burning, shading, or planting;

7.    Activities which result in significant changes in water temperature or physical or chemical characteristics of wetland or stream water sources, including changes in quantity of water and pollutant level;

8.    Application of pesticides, fertilizers, and/or other chemicals unless demonstrated not to be harmful to the regulated area.

9.    The division or redivision of land pursuant to Title 18F PCC and boundary line adjustments.

10.    The creation of impervious surfaces.

(Ord. 2009-18s3 § 4 (part), 2009; Ord. 2004-56s § 4 (part), 2004)

18E.20.030 Exemptions. Revised 6/19

This Section defines activities that are exempt from the provisions of all or part of this Title. Additional exceptions from the requirements of this Title are found in PCC 18E.40.030 B., Review Waiver Allowances.

A.    Title 18E PCC. The following activities are exempt from this Title:

1.    Interior or exterior reconstruction, remodeling, or maintenance of existing structures that do not result in an expansion of the building footprint or increase the building height. The exemption shall not apply to reconstruction which is proposed as a result of site or structural damage associated with a critical area, such as slope failure in a landslide hazard area or flooding in a flood hazard area.

2.    A one-time expansion of primary single-family residential structures that does not result in the loss of significant trees, or reconstruction of an existing building footprint, when the following criteria are met:

a.    The structure is located outside any flood hazard or active landslide hazard area;

b.    The expansion/reconstruction is no greater than 25 percent;

c.    The expansion/reconstruction either extends away from the shoreline, critical area or related buffer, or occurs parallel to the shoreline, critical area and upon existing impervious surfaces; and

d.    The expansion/reconstruction is not the result of structural damage associated with a critical area, such as slope failure in a landslide hazard area or flooding in a flood hazard area.

3.    A residential building permit for a lot which was created through a land division action subject to previous reports and assessments as required under this Title; provided, that the previous reports and assessments adequately identified the impacts associated with the current development proposal; there has been no material change in the potential impact to the critical area or required buffer since the prior review; and there is no new information available that is applicable to the review of the site or the particular critical area.

4.    Maintenance of lawfully established landscaping and gardens within a regulated critical area or its buffer including but not limited to mowing lawns, weeding, removal of noxious and invasive species as identified by Pierce County, harvesting and replanting of garden crops, pruning and planting of vegetation to maintain the condition and appearance of such areas as they existed on the effective date of this Title* and planting of indigenous native species.

* Code Revisor's Note: The effective date referred to in subsection A.4. of this Section is the effective date of Ordinance No. 2013-45s4 (October 26, 2018).

5.    An unpaved access path from a residential dwelling to a shoreline is allowed if:

a.    The path width is limited to four feet;

b.    The length of the path is minimized by keeping the path at a right angle to the shoreline to the degree feasible; and

c.    No trees are removed.

6.    Recreational activities such as hunting, hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing that does not involve the construction of trails.

7.    Enhancement actions that do not involve clearing, grading, or construction activities (e.g., re-vegetation with native plants and installation of nest boxes).

8.    Minor vegetation removal for purposes of providing views and protecting overhead utility lines. Vegetation removal shall be limited to selective limbing of trees and removal of shrubs. Tree limbing shall be done consistent with the following illustration from Vegetation Management: A Guide for Puget Sound Bluff Property Owners.

    An applicant who wishes to remove entire trees or more than minor amounts of shrub vegetation, or to introduce lawn or landscaped areas, shall complete review as set forth in PCC 18E.40.030, Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Area Review Procedures, and PCC 18E.20.035, Review Waiver Allowances.

9.    Existing agricultural activities established prior to February 2, 1992, that after that date do not cause permanent conversion of a critical area through actions such as filling, ditching, draining, clearing, grading, etc., provided that:

a.    Existing agricultural activities and structures must still comply with the provisions of Chapter 18E.70 PCC, Flood Hazard Areas; and

b.    Determination of an agricultural exemption status is limited to the specific area(s) upon which lawfully established agricultural activities are being conducted. A determination that an activity is exempt within one portion of a property does not necessarily extend to other portions of the property.

10.    Removal by hand of manmade litter and control of noxious weeds that are included on the State noxious weed list (Chapter 16-750 WAC) or invasive plant species as identified by Pierce County. Control may be conducted by clipping, pulling, over-shading with native tree and shrub species, or non-mechanized digging. Alternative methods such as mechanical excavation, barrier installation, or herbicide use may be allowed upon approval by the Department and acquisition of any necessary permits.

11.    Activities in artificial channels.

12.    Activities on improved portions of roads, rights-of-way, or easements, provided there is no expansion of ground coverage.

13.    Site investigative work necessary for land use application submittals such as surveys, soil logs, percolation tests, and other related activities. Critical area impacts shall be minimized and disturbed areas shall be immediately restored.

14.    Activities designed for previously approved maintenance and enhancement of critical areas and/or their associated buffers.

15.    Activities undertaken on the site of an existing holding pond where the water flow and/or water table is controlled by a previously approved pump system.

16.    Maintenance of individual cemetery plots in established and approved cemeteries.

17.    Activities in artificial wetlands intentionally created from upland sites including but not limited to irrigation and drainage ditches, grass-lined swales, canals, detention facilities, wastewater treatment facilities, farm ponds, and landscape amenities; or those wetlands created after July 1, 1990, that were unintentionally created as a result of the construction of a road, street, or highway. Artificial wetlands intentionally created from upland to serve as mitigation are regulated.

18.    Maintenance or reconstruction of existing private roads, driveways, on-site sewage systems, and wells; provided, that reconstruction does not involve expansion of facilities, widening, or relocation. Mitigation sequencing is required for temporary impacts associated with reconstruction.

19.    Public and private utility line work (new construction, maintenance, and repair) within improved surfaces (e.g., driveways, parking lots, concrete or asphalt surfaces, gravel roads and road shoulders, and hard surface-earthen rights-of-way, or easements).

20.    Activities in wetland areas managed according to a Special Area Management Plan or other plan adopted by a Pierce County plan or program and specifically designed to protect wetland resources.

21.    Wildfire – Defensible Space Activities in Areas mapped solely as Elk Herd Winter Range. Within existing lots of record located in wildland areas, the following Defensible Space Activities may take place within 30 feet of dwellings, barns, and commercial-use buildings:

a.    Tree limb removal. Where understory shrubs are present below the tree, removal shall follow the guidelines of PCC 18E.40.070 – Appendix F, Wildfire – Defensible Space Guidelines. Where understory shrubs are not present, tree limbs may be removed to a height of 10 feet above the ground;

b.    Interruption of continuous shrub vegetation by selective thinning as defined within PCC 18E.40.070 – Appendix F, Wildfire – Defensible Space Guidelines; and

c.    Replacement of evergreen species with less flammable, native species as defined within PCC 18E.40.070 – Appendix F, Wildfire – Defensible Space Guidelines.

22.    Forest practice activities when conducted in accordance with the requirements of the Forest Practice Act (Chapter 76.09 RCW) and its rules:

a.    Forest practice activities that meet all of the following:

(1)    Are located outside the urban growth area and located outside any area designated by Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as "lands likely to convert" pursuant to Chapter 76.09 RCW;

(2)    Do not take place on lands platted as of January 1, 1960; and

(3)    Do not result in the conversion of land to a use other than commercial forest product.

b.    Forest practices that are conducted in accordance with a 10-year forest management plan approved by the DNR.

c.    Any other forest practice activity that the DNR has determined is exempt from Pierce County jurisdiction; provided, that the DNR has issued a written notice of this determination to Pierce County.

23.    Maintenance or reconstruction of existing, lawfully established public facilities; provided, that reconstruction does not involve expansion of the facility. Mitigation sequencing is required for temporary impacts associated with reconstruction:

a.    Roads, paths, bicycle ways, trails, bridges, replacement sewer facilities, and associated storm drainage facilities or other public rights-of-way;

b.    Flood control improvements such as, but not limited to, levees, revetments, floodwalls, regional storm drainage facilities, drainage structures, or channel capacity projects to protect public infrastructure and/or existing development when administered by Pierce County Public Works and Utilities; provided, that the work shall:

(1)    Not increase the height of the facility or linear length of the affected stream edge;

(2)    Not expand the footprint of the facility waterward or into any landward aquatic habitat; and

(3)    Use approved fish-friendly bioengineering techniques to the extent feasible.

24.    Activities undertaken to comply with a United States Environmental Protection Agency superfund related order or a Washington Department of Ecology order pursuant to the Model Toxics Control Act, including the following activities:

a.    Remediation or removal of hazardous or toxic substances;

b.    Source control; and

c.    Natural resource damage restoration.

B.    Chapter 18E.50 PCC. The following uses or activities are exempt solely from the provisions of Chapter 18E.50 PCC, Aquifer Recharge and Wellhead Protection Areas:

1.    Sewer lines and appurtenances.

2.    Biosolids and sludge land application sites; provided, that these activities comply with the requirements established in Chapters 173-200, 173-216, and 173-304 WAC.

3.    Single-family and two-family dwellings and associated accessory structures.

(Ord. 2017-12s § 2 (part), 2017; Ord. 2017-2s § 2 (part), 2017; Ord. 2015-25s § 2 (part), 2015; Ord. 2013-45s4 § 4 (part), 2015; Ord. 2009-18s3 § 4 (part), 2009; Ord. 2004-56s § 4 (part), 2004)

18E.20.035 Review Waiver Allowances. Revised 6/19

This Section defines the types of projects or situations that may be waived from all or portions of this Title's review requirements. A determination on the appropriateness of a waiver will be made by County staff through discussion with an applicant or review of plans. An applicant waived from the review requirements of this Section may still be required to complete title and land division notification, and critical area boundary identification requirements.

A.    Previously Studied Areas. Projects located in an area that has been the subject of a previously submitted and approved assessment, report, etc., and staff determines that all of the following conditions are met:

1.    The provisions of this Title have been previously addressed as part of another approval;

2.    There has been no material change in the potential impact to the critical area or required buffer since the prior review;

3.    There is no new information available that is applicable to any review of the site or particular critical area; and

4.    No more than five years have elapsed since the issuance of the previous permit or approval.

B.    Substantial Improvements. Activities that are within a fish and wildlife habitat area buffer or wetland buffer but that are separated from the critical area by an existing permanent substantial improvement which serves to eliminate or greatly reduce the impact of the proposed activity upon the critical area. Examples of features that may serve as a substantial improvement include permanent structures (such as homes and commercial buildings), larger paved areas (such as commercial parking lots and major roadways), dikes, and levees. Smaller structures (such as sheds and outbuildings) and smaller paved areas may not serve as substantial improvements.

C.    Category III and IV Wetlands. The mitigation requirements of PCC 18E.30.050, Mitigation Requirements, will not be imposed for activities within:

1.    Category III wetlands less than 2,500 square feet in size which are not:

a.    Contiguous with a freshwater or estuarine system;

b.    Located within shoreline jurisdiction; or

c.    Part of a mosaic wetland complex, as set forth in PCC 18E.30.020 E.2.

2.    Category IV wetlands less than 10,000 square feet in size which are not:

a.    Contiguous with a freshwater or estuarine system;

b.    Located within shoreline jurisdiction; or

c.    Part of a mosaic wetland complex, as set forth in PCC 18E.30.020 E.2.

D.    Shoreline Stabilization.

1.    Repair of existing shoreline stabilization measures or structures.

2.    Replacement of existing shoreline stabilization measures or structures with a similar structure may be allowed if there is a demonstrated need to protect principal uses or structures from erosion caused by currents, tidal action, or waves. The repair or replacement shall not serve to expand the area protected by any existing structures or increase the length of erosion protection structures and should be designed to decrease the impacts of such structures on regulated fish or wildlife habitat. See also PCC 18S.30.070 for Shoreline Stabilization and Chapter 18E.110 PCC for Erosion Hazard Area regulations.

E.    Public Trails. Construction of a pedestrian trail may be allowed within the buffer of a wetland, riparian area, lake or pond, without the requirement to submit a wetland analysis report, subject to the following criteria:

1.    The trail shall be 12 foot maximum width;

2.    The trail shall be constructed within the outer 10 percent of the standard (i.e., not averaged or reduced) wetland buffer or buffers identified in PCC 18E.30.060, Table 1;

3.    The trail shall be constructed of pervious material;

4.    The trail shall disturb less than 6,000 square feet;

5.    The trail requires less than 50 cubic yards of fill;

6.    The trail does not cross or alter any regulated drainage features or natural waters;

7.    The trail shall be located outside of fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas and their associated buffers other than those associated with a riparian area, lake or pond; and

8.    The trail shall be a component of a pedestrian-only public trail system approved by the County Council.

F.    Emergency Action. Emergency action necessary to prevent imminent threat or danger to public health or safety, or to public or private property, or serious environmental degradation shall be allowed as follows:

1.    For a threat to be considered "imminent" there must be a reasonable expectation that the threat will occur prior to the time period necessary to obtain the necessary County reviews;

2.    The landowner shall be required to complete applicable County review after the fact and may be required to modify or remove any emergency repair work and provide mitigation for any impacts to regulated areas;

3.    This exemption does not apply to shoreline erosion protection measures unless the landowner can demonstrate that there is an imminent threat to an existing residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural structure, or associated utilities;

4.    The landowner is encouraged to contact the Department prior to undertaking emergency action to evaluate the emergency and proposed actions.

(Ord. 2013-45s4 § 4 (part), 2015)

18E.20.040 Nonconforming Uses and Structures.

Uses and structures lawfully established prior to the effective date of this Title which become nonconforming due to the application of the requirements of this Title may continue subject to the following:

A.    Nonconforming Use Expansion. Nonconforming uses shall not be expanded or changed in any way that increases the nonconformity without a permit issued pursuant to the provisions of this Title;

B.    Nonconforming Structure Expansion. Existing structures shall not be expanded or altered in any manner that will increase the nonconformity without a permit issued pursuant to the provisions of this Title, except as provided in PCC 18E.20.030 F. and G.

C.    Discontinued Uses. Activities or uses which are discontinued for 12 consecutive months shall be allowed to resume only if they are in compliance with this Title; and

D.    Substantial Damage. Nonconforming structures, except for structures located in a floodway, active landslide hazard area, fault rupture hazard area, or active shoreline erosion hazard area which are damaged or destroyed by fire, explosion, flood, or other casualty, may be restored or replaced if reconstruction is commenced within one year of such damage and is substantially completed within 18 months of the date such damage occurred. The reconstruction or restoration shall not serve to expand, enlarge, or increase the nonconformity except as allowed through the provisions in PCC 18E.20.030 F. and G. This subsection does not apply to structures located in a FEMA floodway, deep or fast flowing floodway, active landslide hazard area, fault rupture hazard area, and/or active shoreline erosion hazard area.

1.    Floodway – Channel Migration Zone. Structures that are located in a floodway only by the fact they are in the Channel Migration Zone, may only be allowed to be restored up to the limits of substantial improvement, as set forth in PCC 18E.20.070, if the structure is damaged or destroyed as a result of flooding or channel migration. Damage as a result of fire, explosion or other casualty may be restored or replaced as described in PCC 18E.20.040 D.4.

2.    Floodway – Other Categories. Structures that are located in these areas must comply with PCC 18E.70.040, Flood Hazard Area Standards.

3.    Active Landslide Hazard Area, Fault Rupture Hazard Area, or Active Shoreline Erosion Hazard Area. Structures in an active landslide hazard area, fault rupture hazard area, or active shoreline erosion hazard area may only be allowed to be restored up to the limits of substantial improvement, as set forth in PCC 18E.20.070, if the structure is damaged or destroyed as a result of landslide, seismic, or shoreline erosion respectively. Damage as a result of fire, explosion or other casualty may be restored or replaced as described in PCC 18E.20.040 D.4.

4.    All other Critical Areas. Nonconforming structures which are damaged or destroyed by fire, explosion, or other casualty, may be restored or replaced if reconstruction is commenced within one year of such damage and is substantially completed within 18 months of the date such damage occurred. The reconstruction or restoration shall not serve to expand, enlarge, or increase the nonconformity except as allowed through the provisions in PCC 18E.20.030 F. and G.

E.    Nonconforming Mobile Home Replacement – Channel Migration Zone. Nonconforming mobile homes that are located in a floodway only by the fact they are in the Channel Migration Zone, may be replaced even if the mobile home exceeds the substantial damage or improvement threshold in PCC 18E.20.070. Because the valuation of a mobile home is calculated in a different manner than manufactured housing or conventional construction, it is the intent to allow the replacement of the mobile home with approximately a like for like structure.

F.    Nonconforming Mobile Home Replacement – FEMA and Deep-Fast Flowing Floodways. Mobile homes that are nonconforming uses or structures and located in floodway designations other than a Channel Migration Zone area only shall not be replaced except as otherwise allowed by the provisions of this Section.

G.    Replacement of Mobile Home with Recreational Vehicle. Mobile homes in existing mobile home parks that are located within a regulatory floodway may be replaced with recreational vehicles when all of the following requirements are met:

1.    The replacement shall occur on a one for one basis (i.e., one mobile home removed for each recreational vehicle permitted) and shall not increase the number of units located within the floodway;

2.    The recreational vehicle must remain mobile, shall not be permanently affixed to the lot, and shall be attached to the lot by quick disconnect type utilities;

3.    The recreational vehicle must remain fully licensed and ready for public road use;

4.    Electrical service connection points for the recreational vehicle shall be located above the BFE or shall be watertight; and

5.    The owner of the mobile home park shall have a plan for evacuating the recreational vehicles from the floodway and flood fringe in the event of an evacuation order. The plan shall be filed with the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management.

(Ord. 2016-52 § 1 (part), 2016; Ord. 2008-16s2 § 5, 2008; Ord. 2006-103s § 2 (part), 2006; Ord. 2004-56s § 4 (part), 2004)

18E.20.050 Reasonable Use Exceptions.

A.    General Requirements.

1.    If the application of this Title would deny all reasonable use of a site, development may be allowed which is consistent with the general purposes of this Title and the public interest. Nothing in this Title is intended to preclude all reasonable use of property.

2.    The provisions outlined in this Section shall only be used when application of this Title would deny all reasonable use of a site and a proposed project cannot meet the prescriptive standards outlined in this Title.

3.    Reasonable use provisions shall apply to new construction, expansions, additions, replacements, and redevelopment projects.

4.    The Reasonable Use Exception process shall not be used to create lots that are deemed unbuildable through application of the provisions outlined in this Title.

5.    The proposal must comply with all provisions in Chapters 18E.70 PCC, Flood Hazard Area, and 18E.110 PCC, Erosion Hazard Areas.

B.    Application Requirements. An application for a reasonable use exception shall include the following information:

1.    A description of the areas of the site that contains a critical area, buffers, or within setbacks required under this Title;

2.    A description of the amount of the site that is within setbacks required by other standards of the Zoning Code;

3.    A description of the proposed development, including a site plan;

4.    An analysis of the impact that the amount of development described in PCC 18E.20.050 B.3. above would have on the critical area(s);

5.    An analysis of whether any other reasonable use with less impact on the critical area(s) and associated buffer(s) is possible;

6.    A design of the proposal so that the amount of development proposed as reasonable use will have the least impact practicable on the critical area(s);

7.    An analysis of the modifications needed to the standards of this Title to accommodate the proposed development;

8.    A description of any modifications needed to the required front, side, and rear setbacks; building height; and buffer widths to provide for a reasonable use while providing greater protection to the critical area(s);

9.    Such other information as the Department determines is reasonably necessary to evaluate the issue of reasonable use as it relates to the proposed development, such as but not limited to a wetland analysis report, mitigation plan, habitat evaluation study, and/or a buffer enhancement plan;

10.    An analysis of cumulative impacts based upon best available science.

C.    Review.

1.    Public Hearing Required. The Department shall set a date for a public hearing before the Pierce County Hearing Examiner after all requests for additional information or plan correction, as set forth in PCC 18.60.020 C., have been satisfied. The public hearing shall follow the procedures set forth in Chapter 18.80 PCC, Development Regulations – General Provisions and Chapter 1.22 PCC.

2.    Decision Criteria. The Hearing Examiner may approve a reasonable use exception if the Examiner determines all of the following criteria are met:

a.    The proposed development is located on a lot that was created prior to March 1, 2005, and there is no other reasonable use or feasible alternative to the proposed development with less impact on the critical area(s) and/or associated buffers including phasing or project implementation, change in timing of activities, buffer averaging or reduction, setback variance, relocation of driveway, or placement of structure.

b.    The development cannot be located outside the critical area and/or its associated buffer due to topographic constraints of the parcel or size and/or location of the parcel in relation to the limits of the critical area and/or its associated buffer and a building setback variance or road variance has been reviewed, analyzed, and rejected as a feasible alternative.

c.    The proposed development does not pose a threat to the public health, safety, or welfare on or off the site, nor shall it damage nearby public or private property.

d.    Any alteration of the critical area(s) shall be the minimum necessary to allow for reasonable use of the property.

e.    The inability of the applicant to derive reasonable use of the property is not the result of actions by the applicant in subdividing the property or adjusting a boundary line thereby creating the undevelopable condition after the effective date of this Title.

f.    The proposal mitigates the impacts on the critical area(s) to the maximum extent possible, while still allowing reasonable use of the site.

g.    The proposed activities will not jeopardize the continued existence of species listed by the State or Federal government as endangered, threatened, sensitive, or documented priority species or priority habitats.

h.    The proposed activities will not cause significant degradation of groundwater or surface water quality.

3.    Additional Decision Criteria for Wetlands and Associated Buffers. In addition to the decision criteria listed in subsection 2. above, a reasonable use exception for wetlands and associated buffers shall also demonstrate that the proposed activity will result in minimum feasible alteration or impairment to the wetland's functional characteristics and existing contours, vegetation, fish and wildlife resources, and hydrological conditions.

4.    Additional Decision Criteria for Critical Fish and Wildlife Habitat Areas and Associated Buffers. In addition to the decision criteria listed in subsection 2. above, the Hearing Examiner may approve a reasonable use exception for critical fish and wildlife habitat areas and associated buffers if the Examiner determines that the proposal complies with the mitigation measures as set forth in PCC 18E.40.050.

5.    Additional Decision Criteria for Volcanic Hazard Areas – Special Occupancy Structures or Covered Assemblies. In addition to the decision criteria listed in subsection 2. above, the Hearing Examiner may approve a reasonable use exception for special occupancy structures or covered assemblies located within volcanic hazard areas if the Examiner determines that the proposal complies with the following conditions:

a.    The applicant has shown through submittal of a travel time data the amount of time that is anticipated for a lahar to reach the proposed project and evacuation route.

b.    The applicant has demonstrated through submittal of a volcanic hazard emergency evacuation plan that:

(1)    The proposed project is located directly adjacent to a safety zone (area completely located outside the limits of a Case I lahar) that is within walking distance in an amount of time less than the anticipated time that it takes a lahar to reach a given point (refer to PCC 18E.60.020 C). (Note: The time that it takes a lahar to reach a given point is calculated from either the source of the event to the given point, or from the source of the lahar warning signal to the given point, i.e., only the Puyallup and Carbon River drainages at this time have the Acoustic Flow Monitoring System. Other drainages, such as the Nisqually and White Rivers, have no warning systems. Persons in those areas would be reliant on other emergency notification systems, such as the National Weather Radio. At this time, no other warning system is planned for the Nisqually or White River drainages.) The time of walking distance shall be calculated based upon the amount of time necessary for physically or mentally challenged individuals to get from the proposed project to the safety zone.

(2)    The estimated travel time analysis for the lahar to reach the evacuation route is greater than the estimated travel time for physically or mentally challenged individuals to have cleared the evacuation route and reached the safety zone.

(3)    The evacuation route must be at a slope and surface to be considered handicapped accessible (e.g., slopes may not exceed 1' in 12' rise and surface must be an all weather, hard material) as determined by the County Building Official.

(4)    The evacuation route has been determined not to contain any other potential natural hazards, such as landslide or flood hazards, to cause a blockage or destruction of the evacuation route during an event (i.e., seismic event triggers a landslide that results in the evacuation route becoming impassible).

(5)    The evacuation route is not located adjacent to any highways or arterial road networks that may cause a life safety threat to evacuating pedestrians.

(6)    The safety zone is an area with adequate ingress/egress (i.e., a direct exit once individuals reach this location).

c.    If the system is available for the affected river drainage, the proposed structure(s) shall have an automated emergency warning system that is connected into the County's Automated Lahar Warning System.

d.    Proposed public structure(s) shall have an adequate contingency plan that identifies where occupants and emergency response equipment and vehicles will be relocated in the event that a lahar damages the facility to an uninhabitable condition.

6.    Additional Decision Criteria for Volcanic Hazard Areas – Fire Stations. The Hearing Examiner may approve a reasonable use exception for fire stations, located within volcanic hazard areas if the Examiner determines that the proposal complies with the following conditions:

a.    The applicant has shown through submittal of travel time data (available from Pierce County) the amount of time anticipated for a lahar to reach the proposed project and evacuation route.

b.    The applicant has demonstrated through submittal of a volcanic hazard emergency evacuation plan that:

(1)    The proposed project has an identified safety zone (area completely outside the limits of a Case 1 lahar) that is within a distance that can be traveled in an amount of time less than the anticipated time that it takes a lahar to reach a given point (refer to PCC 18E.60.020 C.). (Note: The time that it takes a lahar to reach a given point is calculated from either the source of the event to the given point, or from the source of the lahar warning signal to the given point, i.e., only the Puyallup and Carbon River drainages at this time have the Acoustic Flow Monitoring System. Other drainages, such as the Nisqually and White Rivers, have no warning systems. Persons in those areas would be reliant on other emergency notification systems, such as the National Weather Radio. At this time, no other warning system is planned for the Nisqually or White River drainages).

(2)    The evacuation route must be at a slope and surface to be considered accessible by the fire equipment and personnel as determined by the County Building Official.

(3)    The evacuation route has been determined not to contain any other potential natural hazards, such as landslide, to cause a blockage or destruction of the evacuation route during an event (i.e., seismic event triggers a landslide that results in the evacuation route becoming impassible).

(4)    The safety zone is an area with adequate ingress/egress (i.e., a direct exit once individuals reach this location).

(5)    The estimated travel time analysis for the lahar to reach the evacuation route is greater than the estimated travel time to relocate emergency response equipment, vehicles, and personnel to a safety zone.

c.    If the system is available for the affected river drainage, the proposed structure(s) shall have an automated emergency warning system that is connected into the County's Automated Lahar Warning System.

d.    Proposed fire stations shall have an adequate contingency plan that identifies where occupants and emergency response equipment and vehicles will be relocated in the event that a lahar damages the facility to an uninhabitable condition. Proposed fire stations shall indicate their proposed back-up station or stations.

7.    Additional Decision Criteria for Active Landslide Hazard Areas and Their Associated Buffers. In addition to the decision criteria listed in subsection 2. above, a reasonable use exception for active landslide hazard areas and their associated buffers shall also demonstrate the following:

a.    Mitigation measures are provided for proposed driveways, shared accesses, roads or bridges that will ensure that these facilities will not be susceptible to damage from landslide-induced ground deformation or impact/coverage by landslide debris. Mitigation measures shall be designed for static and seismic loading condition in accordance with the most recent version of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Manual.

b.    For developments that propose access through an active landslide area or its associated buffer, a secondary access route is provided when the development will contain more than 20 dwellings (existing or proposed dwellings). The secondary access route must, as a minimum, meet emergency vehicle standards and shall not be located in an active landslide hazard area or its associated buffer.

c.    The proposed development shall not create the need for larger landslide hazard area buffers or setbacks on neighboring properties unless approved through a notarized written agreement with the affected property owners.

d.    Any dwellings proposed as part of the development shall not be located within the active landslide hazard area or its associated buffer.

8.    Examiner's Authority. The Examiner has the authority to approve an application for a reasonable use exception, approve with additional requirements above those specified in this Title, require modification of the proposal to comply with specified requirements or local conditions, or deny the application if it fails to comply with the requirements of this Title.

9.    Required Written Findings and Determinations. A reasonable use exception may be approved by the Examiner only if all of the following findings can be made regarding the proposal and are supported by the record:

a.    The granting of the proposal will not be detrimental to the public health, safety, and general welfare.

b.    The granting of the proposal will not be injurious to the property, regulated critical area(s), or improvements adjacent to and in the vicinity of the proposal.

c.    The proposal minimizes adverse environmental impacts to the maximum practicable extent and provides mitigation to offset any impacts.

d.    The granting of the proposal is consistent and compatible with the goals, objectives, and policies of the Comprehensive Plan; community plan, if applicable; and the provisions of this Title.

(Ord. 2009-18s3 § 4 (part), 2009; Ord. 2006-103s § 2 (part), 2006; Ord. 2004-56s § 4 (part), 2004)

18E.20.060 Variances.

A.    General. An applicant, who seeks to reduce a wetland buffer below the provisions of PCC 18E.30.060 or the Wetland Standards of PCC 18E.30.040, or a critical fish and wildlife habitat buffer below the provisions of PCC 18E.40.060, or the Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Area Standards of PCC 18E.40.040, or the Flood Hazard Area Standards of PCC 18E.70.040, may pursue a variance.

B.    Application Requirements.

1.    Preliminary Review. The provisions for conducting a preliminary review of a proposed variance are set forth in Chapter 18.40 PCC, Development Regulations – General Provisions.

2.    Application Filing. Variance applications shall be reviewed for completeness in accordance with Department submittal standards checklists and pursuant to Chapter 18.40 PCC, Development Regulations – General Provisions.

C.    Public Notice. Public notice provisions for notice of application, public hearing, and final decision pursuant to this Title are outlined in Chapter 18.80 PCC, Development Regulations – General Provisions.

D.    Review.

1.    Initial Review. The Department shall conduct an initial review of any variance application in accordance with the provisions outlined in Chapter 18.60 PCC, Development Regulations – General Provisions.

2.    Public Hearing Required. When a public hearing is required, the Department shall set a date for a public hearing before the Pierce County Hearing Examiner after all requests for additional information or plan correction, as set forth in PCC 18.60.020 C., have been satisfied. The public hearing shall follow the procedures set forth in Chapter 18.80 PCC, Development Regulations – General Provisions, and Chapter 1.22 PCC.

3.    Decision Criteria for Wetland Buffers and Fish and Wildlife Habitat Buffers.

a.    The Hearing Examiner shall have the authority to grant a variance from the requirements of PCC 18E.30.060 and 18E.40.060 when, in the opinion of the Examiner, all of the following criteria have been met:

(1)    There are special circumstances applicable to the subject property or to the intended use such as shape, topography, location, or surroundings that do not apply generally to surrounding properties or that make it impossible to redesign the project to preclude the need for a variance;

(2)    The applicant has avoided impacts and provided mitigation to the maximum practical extent;

(3)    The buffer reduction proposed through the variance is limited to that necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of a substantial property right or use possessed by other similarly situated property, but which because of special circumstances is denied to the property in question; and

(4)    Granting the variance will not be materially detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to the property or improvement.

b.    In lieu of criteria PCC 18E.20.060 D.3.a.(1)-(4), above, an applicant may pursue a wetland buffer variance through demonstration of all of the following criteria:

(1)    The variance results in an overall increase in the function of the wetland.

(2)    The variance results in the preservation or enhancement within the project area of other Habitats of Local Importance discussed in PCC 18E.40.020 D.

(3)    The applicant has avoided impacts and provided mitigation, pursuant to PCC 18E.30.050, to the maximum practical extent.

c.    In lieu of criteria PCC 18E.20.060 D.3.a.(1)-(4), above, an applicant may pursue a fish and wildlife habitat buffer variance through demonstration of all of the following criteria:

(1)    The variance will not adversely impact receiving water quality or quantity.

(2)    The variance will not adversely impact any functional attribute of the habitat area.

(3)    The variance will not jeopardize the continued existence of species listed by the Federal government or the State as endangered, threatened, sensitive, or documented priority species or priority habitats.

(4)    The applicant has avoided impacts and provided mitigation, pursuant to PCC 18E.40.050 to the maximum practical extent.

4.    Variances to Flood Hazard Area Standards.

a.    General. Variances to the flood hazard area standards set forth within PCC 18E.70.040 may be authorized by the Director as provided by WAC 173-158-120 and 44 CFR Part 60.6, as amended, upon a showing of good and sufficient cause. Variances are limited to situations where exceptional hardship would result from the failure to grant the variance.

b.    Exceptional Hardship.

(1)    Approval of variances shall be strictly limited to situations where exceptional hardship would result from failure to grant the variance, such as the inability to utilize property in a manner permitted through zoning.

(2)    The applicant shall bear the burden of proving the existence of an exceptional hardship.

(3)    The claimed hardship must be exceptional, unusual and peculiar to the property involved. Inconvenience, aesthetic considerations, personal preferences or the disapproval of neighbors do not qualify as exceptional hardships under 44 CFR Part 60.6, as amended.

(4)    Improvements that violate zoning or building codes, including failure to obtain required permits, are created hardships and shall not be used to demonstrate exceptional hardship.

c.    Lot of Record Limitation. Applications for variances under this Section shall be limited to lots in existence prior to March 1, 2005, and shall not be used to enable further land division.

d.    Variances to Elevation Standards. Variances to elevation requirements are discouraged due to the potential increase in risk to life and property. Generally, the only condition under which a variance to elevation standards may be issued is for new construction and substantial improvements to be erected on small or irregularly shaped lots contiguous to and surrounded by lots with existing structures constructed below the base flood elevation. As lot size increases the technical justification for issuing a variance to elevation standards increases.

e.    Criteria for Variance Approval. The Director shall have the authority to grant a variance from the requirements of PCC 18E.70.040 when, in the opinion of the Director, all of the following criteria have been met:

(1)    Granting the variance will not result in an increase in flood levels during the base flood discharge of not greater than 0.01 feet or 0.00 feet in a FEMA mapped floodway;

(2)    The applicant has avoided impacts and provided mitigation to the maximum practical extent;

(3)    The variance is the minimum necessary, considering the flood hazard, to afford relief;

(4)    Failure to grant the variance would result in an exceptional hardship to the applicant as set forth within PCC 18E.20.060 D.4.b.;

(5)    The structure or other development is protected by methods that minimize flood damages during the base flood;

(6)    Granting the variance will not foreseeably result in material being swept onto other lands in a manner that could cause injury to life or property;

(7)    The granting of a variance will not foreseeably result in additional threats to public safety; extraordinary public expense; nuisances; fraud or victimization of the public; or conflict with other local, state, or federal regulations;

(8)    For historic structures, that the repair or rehabilitation will not preclude the structure's continued designation as a historic structure and the variance is the minimum necessary to preserve the historic character and design of the structure; and

(9)    No other alternative development locations for the proposed structure or facility are available on the site that are not subject to flooding or erosion damage or reduced flooding and erosion.

f.    Notification.

(1)    The applicant shall be notified in writing that the issuance of a variance to construct a structure below the base flood level will result in increased premium rates for flood insurance up to amounts as high as $25 per $100 of insurance coverage and that such construction below the base flood level increases risks to life and property. Such notification shall be maintained with a record of all variance actions.

(2)    Notice of the granting of the variance, in a form approved by the Department of Planning and Public Works, shall be recorded with the title of the property.

g.    Director's Authority. When granting a variance, the Director may attach specific conditions to the variance which will serve to meet the goals, objectives, and policies of this Title. The Director has the authority, as part of the approval of the variance, to establish expiration dates or time periods within which the approval must be exercised. Upon expiration, the permit or approval shall be considered null and void. No extensions of the expiration date shall be permitted.

5.    Examiner's Authority. When granting a variance, the Examiner may attach specific conditions to the variance, which will serve to meet the goals, objectives, and policies of this Title. The Examiner has the authority, as part of the approval of the variance, to establish expiration dates or time periods within which the approval must be exercised. Upon expiration the permit or approval shall be considered null and void. No extensions of the expiration date shall be permitted.

(Ord. 2017-12s § 2 (part), 2017; Ord. 2014-18s § 2 (part), 2014; Ord. 2008-16s2 § 1, 2008; Ord. 2006-103s § 2 (part), 2006; Ord. 2004-56s § 4 (part), 2004)

18E.20.070 Substantial Improvement and Substantial Damage.

A.    Substantial Improvement. Substantial improvement is the repair, reconstruction, addition, rehabilitation, replacement, or other improvement of a structure taking place during a period of five years, the cumulative cost of which equals or whereby the current valuation for the work exceeds 50 percent of the current valuation of the existing structure.

1.    The Building Official shall determine the current valuation per Title 17C PCC.

2.    Substantial improvement is considered to occur when the first alteration of any wall, ceiling, floor, or other structural part of the building commences, whether or not that alteration affects the external dimensions of the structure. Substantial improvement does not, however, include either:

a.    Any project for improvement of a structure to correct existing violations of State or local health, sanitary, or safety code specifications which have been identified by the local code enforcement official and which are the minimum necessary to assure safe living conditions; or

b.    Any alteration of a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places or a State Inventory of Historic Places.

B.    Substantial Damage. A structure is considered substantially damaged when the current valuation for the work of reconstructing or restoring a structure to its before damage condition exceeds 50 percent of the current valuation of the existing structure.

1.    Damage to a structure may be sustained through any origin such as but not limited to earthquakes, fire, explosion, flood, landslides, or other calamity.

2.    The Building Official shall determine the current permit valuation per Title 17C PCC.

(Ord. 2014-18s § 2 (part), 2014; Ord. 2008-16s2 § 2, 2008; Ord. 2004-56s § 4 (part), 2004)

18E.20.080 Current Use Assessment Program.

A.    An owner of agricultural land, timberland, or open space desiring current use classification under RCW 84.34 may file for such current use classification as provided for in Chapter 2.114 PCC.

B.    The Department shall notify the Assessor-Treasurer's Office when restrictions on development occur on a particular site.

C.    The Assessor-Treasurer's Office shall consider the critical areas and buffering requirements of this Title in determining the fair market value of land. Any owner of an undeveloped buffer which has been placed in a separate tract or tracts, protective easement, public or private land trust dedication, or other similarly preserved area shall have that portion of land assessed consistent with those restrictions.

(Ord. 2004-56s § 4 (part), 2004)