Chapter 18.10


18.10.010    Title.

18.10.020    Authority, purpose, and scope.

18.10.030    Code interpretations and administrative determinations.

18.10.040    Establishment of land use designations and official maps.

18.10.050    Applicability.

18.10.060    Minimum standards.

18.10.070    Severability clause.

18.10.080    Waiver.

18.10.010 Title.

This document is the San Juan County Unified Development Code and may be cited as the “UDC” or the “code.” (Ord. 2-1998 Exh. B § 1.1)

18.10.020 Authority, purpose, and scope.

A. Authority and Comprehensive Plan Consistency. This code is a principal tool for implementing the goals and policies of the San Juan County Comprehensive Plan, pursuant to the mandated provisions of the State of Washington’s Growth Management Act (Chapter 36.70A RCW), Shoreline Management Act (Chapter 90.58 RCW), Subdivisions Code (Chapter 58.17 RCW), State Environmental Policy Act (Chapter 43.21C RCW), and other applicable state and local laws.

The land division provisions of this code (Chapter 18.70 SJCC) are intended to supplement and implement Chapter 58.17 RCW as the land division ordinance of the County. If the provisions of this code conflict with any provision of Chapter 58.17 RCW, the RCW shall prevail.

No land shall be subdivided or developed for any purpose which is not in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan or applicable provisions of this code.

This code is intended to be used as a single integrated document. Each part contributes to a unified regulatory system.

B. Purpose. The general purposes of this Unified Development Code are:

1. To encourage land use decisionmaking in accordance with the public interest, protection of private property rights and the public good, and applicable laws of the state of Washington;

2. To protect the general public health, safety, and welfare;

3. To implement the San Juan County Comprehensive Plan goals and policies through land use and other regulations;

4. To provide for the economic, social, and aesthetic advantages of orderly development through harmonious groupings of compatible and complementary land uses and the application of appropriate development standards;

5. To provide for adequate public facilities and services in conjunction with development; and

6. To promote general public safety by regulating development of lands containing physical hazards and to minimize the adverse environmental impacts of development.

C. Scope. Hereafter, no building or structure shall be erected, demolished, remodeled, reconstructed, altered, enlarged, or relocated, and no building, structure or premises shall be used in San Juan County except in compliance with the provisions of this code and then only after securing all required permits and licenses. Any building, structure, or use lawfully existing at the time of passage of this code, although not in compliance therewith, may be maintained as provided in SJCC 18.40.310, Nonconforming structures and uses. (Ord. 2-1998 Exh. B § 1.2)

18.10.030 Code interpretations and administrative determinations.

A. Code Interpretations.

1. Upon request or upon the administrator’s own initiative the administrator shall review and resolve any questions involving the proper interpretation or application of the provisions of this code. The administrator’s decision shall conform to the letter of this code and with the spirit and intent of the Comprehensive Plan.

2. Classification of Use. Recognizing that there may be uses not specifically mentioned in this code, whether because of advancing technology or for any other reason, this code includes a process for review and approval of such uses by the administrator through the issuance of a code interpretation. The administrator has authority to approve the use, in accordance with the review and decision criteria specified in SJCC 18.80.090 and 18.80.100. Uses which are processed in this manner are identified by the symbols “D” (for “discretionary”) or “C” (for “conditional”) in Tables 18.30.030 and 18.30.040.

3. Record. A dated and indexed public record shall be kept of all code interpretations made by the administrator. The administrator shall provide a yearly report to the board of County commissioners, planning commission, and planning department of all code interpretations rendered.

4. Minimum Requirements. When interpreting and applying the regulations of this code, its provisions shall be the minimum requirements unless otherwise stated.

B. Administrative Determinations and Decisions. Upon request or upon the administrator’s own initiative the administrator may issue a determination regarding the administration of this code, including, but not limited to, a determination of incomplete application (see SJCC 18.80.020(D)(4)), and a determination terminating review of a proposal. The administrator also issues decisions approving or denying development or project permit applications, or imposing conditions on such permit applications. These administrative decisions include, but are not limited to, decisions on applications for those project permits where the administrator is the decisionmaker (e.g., simple land divisions).

C. Reconsideration and Finality. Reconsideration of code interpretations and administrative interpretations is allowed subject to the time limits and procedures for decisions of the hearing examiner. All code interpretations and administrative determinations under this code shall be final unless appealed (see SJCC 18.80.140(A)).

D. Appeals of Code Interpretations and Administrative Determinations or Decisions.

1. Appeals from any code interpretation, administrative determination or decision of the administrator shall be decided by the hearing examiner in accordance with the provisions set forth in SJCC 18.80.140.

2. The administrator shall prepare a written report with findings of fact and conclusions regarding his decision.

3. A decision of the administrator interpreting the code shall be entitled to substantial weight.

4. The party appealing a code interpretation or administrative determination or decision shall have the burden of presenting the evidence necessary to prove to the hearing examiner that the administrator’s interpretation, determination, or decision was clearly erroneous. (Ord. 9-2013 § 30; Ord. 11-2002 § 1; Ord. 14-2000 § 7(WW); Ord. 2-1998 Exh. B § 1.3)

18.10.040 Establishment of land use designations and official maps.

A. Land Use Designations. This Unified Development Code applies to the land use designations that are established by the San Juan County Comprehensive Plan, subarea and activity center plans, and official maps. Some regulations for subareas and activity centers are included in this title while others are in separate documents. Within subarea and activity centers, both this UDC and the regulations for the area apply. The boundaries of the various land use designations, activity centers and subareas are shown on the San Juan County Comprehensive Plan official maps.

Land use designations for areas that are not within an adopted subarea or activity center are shown below in Table 1.1.

Table 1.1.    Comprehensive Plan Land Use Designations


Land Use Designation

Growth Areas


Friday Harbor Urban
Growth Area


Eastsound Urban Growth


Lopez Village Urban Growth Area

Activity Centers


Village commercial


Village industrial


Village residential


Hamlet commercial


Hamlet industrial


Hamlet residential


Island center


Residential activity center


Master planned resort

Rural Lands


Rural general use


Rural residential


Rural farm-forest


Rural industrial


Rural commercial

Resource Lands


Agricultural resource lands


Forest resource lands

Special Lands





B. Official Maps.

1. There is hereby made a part of this Unified Development Code a series of maps which shall be known officially as the “San Juan County Comprehensive Plan Official Maps” (hereafter, “the official maps”). The official maps shall show all those areas of San Juan County which fall under the jurisdiction of this title and the designated land use classes and designations for all areas of San Juan County.

2. There shall be only one official copy of the official maps, which shall reside in the custody of the San Juan County community development and planning department. Whenever any portion of the official maps is legally amended, the official copy shall be altered promptly to reflect the amendment.

3. At the time of adoption of this Unified Development Code, one copy of the official maps shall be filed with the San Juan County auditor. In addition, at least once every 12 months following the filing of the initial official maps with the auditor, the community development and planning department shall make an additional copy of the official maps and file it with the initial official maps in the auditor’s office. If the official maps have not been amended during the 12-month period, the planning department may file with the auditor a notice to that effect, signed by the planning director, in lieu of a copy of the official maps. The purpose of these annual filings is to maintain an official record of the changes occurring over time to the land use classes and designations. At no time shall the copies of the official maps filed with the auditor be altered in any way.

4. Where questions arise regarding the precise boundaries of any designated environment, the director shall make the final determination, subject to the provisions of SJCC 18.80.140(B), open-record appeals. Unofficial copies of the official maps may be prepared for administrative purposes and for sale to the public.

C. Land Use Designation Boundaries.

1. Land use designation boundaries, unless otherwise indicated by natural land forms, shall follow lot lines or the centerline of streets and alleys as shown on the official maps. Where the street layout on the ground varies from that shown on the official maps, the designations shown on the official maps shall be applied to the streets as actually laid out so as to carry out the intent and purpose of this title.

2. Land use designation boundary lines shall extend parallel from their landward location to a point of intersection at the center of all bodies of water. Bodies of water include all saltwater bodies, streams, and lakes.

D. Critical Areas Maps. Critical areas maps are provided only as a general guide to alert the viewer to the possible location and extent of critical areas. The maps should not be relied upon to establish the existence or boundaries of a critical area nor to establish whether all of the elements necessary to identify an area as a critical area actually exist. However, the maps may be relied upon by the director as a basis for requiring field investigation and special reports. In the event of a conflict between information shown on the maps and information shown as a result of field investigation, the latter shall prevail. Prior to requiring a field investigation or special report, an applicant may request that the director conduct a site visit to evaluate whether a critical area may be present. (See procedures in SJCC 18.80.020 and 18.80.070.)

The definitions and classifications provided in this title are the controlling factors in determining the actual presence and extent of a critical area. Sources for mapped information include, but are not limited to, those listed in subsection (E) of this section.

E. Summary of Map and Data Sources by Topic.

1. Geologically Hazardous Areas (SJCC 18.35.055 through 18.35.070).

a. United States Geographical Survey (USGS), Topographic Maps.

b. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Soil Survey of San Juan County, Washington.

c. Washington State Department of Ecology (WDOE), Coastal Zone Atlas.

d. Washington State Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Liquefaction Susceptibility Map of San Juan County, Washington.

2. Frequently Flooded Areas (SJCC 18.35.075).

a. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Flood Insurance Program Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM).

b. WDOE, Coastal Zone Atlas.

3. Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas (SJCC 18.35.080).

a. “Water Resource Assessment Technical Report,” San Juan County Comprehensive Water Plan.

b. San Juan County Water Resource Management Plan, as adopted by the board of County commissioners in October 2004.

c. San Juan County Summary of Best Available Science for Critical Areas, September 2008, Chapters 1, 2, 7 and References.

4. Wetlands (SJCC 18.35.085 through 18.35.105). San Juan County New Possible Wetlands Map (this map replaces and does not include maps used prior to adoption of this section).

5. Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas (SJCC 18.35.110 through 18.35.140). The most current maps of:

a. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), species and habitat data.

b. Washington Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), Water Type Reference Maps and species and habitat data.

c. Washington Department of Ecology, Coastal Zone Atlas.

d. Current and Historic Coastal Geomorphic (Feeder Bluff) Mapping of San Juan County, Washington, Coastal Geologic Services, 2010.

e. Stream type maps developed by the Wild Fish Conservancy and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

f. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) map of critical salmon and steelhead habitat. (Ord. 26-2012 § 1; Ord. 52-2008 § 16; Ord. 15-2005 § 3; Ord. 11-2000 § 2; Ord. 2-1998 Exh. B § 1.4)

18.10.050 Applicability.

A. General. This code provides land use regulations which apply to all land and land use activity and to all structures and facilities within San Juan County. The provisions of this code shall prevail over any conflicting provision of the San Juan County Comprehensive Plan, except as provided in subsection (C) of this section.

B. Water and Sewer. All development shall comply with the San Juan County water and sewage disposal regulations (SJCC Title 13), administered by the health and community services department.

C. Applicability of Shoreline Master Program. The provisions of this code augment those of the Shoreline Master Program, which consists of the policies in Element 3 of the Comprehensive Plan and the regulations in Chapter 18.50 SJCC. All developments within the jurisdiction of the Shoreline Master Program must conform with the policies of Element 3 of the plan and shall be subject to Chapter 18.50 SJCC. In the event of any conflict between the Shoreline Master Program and other provisions of this code, the more restrictive shall prevail.

D. Applicability of Permit Requirements. Any permit required by Chapter 18.30 SJCC is in addition to any shoreline permit required by Chapter 18.50 SJCC. Proposed uses or development occurring wholly or partially within the jurisdiction of the Shoreline Master Program are subject to the permit requirements of Chapter 18.30 SJCC as well as Chapter 18.50 SJCC.

E. Nonconforming Uses or Structures.

1. Existing nonconforming uses and structures which are not under the jurisdiction of the Shoreline Master Program Chapter 18.50 SJCC shall be subject to SJCC 18.40.310, Nonconforming structures and uses, and SJCC 18.80.120 or such provisions for nonconforming uses in a subarea plan.

2. Existing nonconforming uses and structures under the jurisdiction of the Shoreline Master Program (SMP) (Chapter 18.50 SJCC) shall be subject to the requirements specified within the SMP. If the SMP or subarea plan does not detail requirements for nonconforming uses and structures, then the provisions of WAC 173-27-080 shall control.

F. Building Code. Where conflicts occur between the provisions of this code and the Uniform Building Code, the more restrictive provision shall control.

G. Subarea Plans. Where conflicts occur between this code and any regulation of any subarea plan, the regulation of the subarea plan shall control. (Ord. 2-1998 Exh. B § 1.5)

18.10.060 Minimum standards.

Where this code references the Uniform Building Code, the intent is to require only the minimum standards for new construction allowed under state law unless such standards conflict with other provisions of this code or Title 15 SJCC. (Ord. 2-1998 Exh. B § 1.6)

18.10.070 Severability clause.

If any provision of this code or its application to any person, legal entity, or circumstances is held to be invalid, the remainder of this code and the application of the remaining provisions to other persons or circumstance shall not be affected. (Ord. 2-1998 Exh. B § 1.7)

18.10.080 Waiver.

A waiver or failure to enforce any part of this code or any goal or policy in the Comprehensive Plan by San Juan County or any of its agents shall not constitute a waiver of any other part of the code or Comprehensive Plan, nor shall such a waiver or failure to enforce constitute a future or continuing waiver of the specific part that was waived or not enforced. (Ord. 2-1998 Exh. B § 1.8)