Chapter 20.76
FOREST PRACTICES

Sections:

20.76.010    Authority and purpose.

20.76.020    Definitions.

20.76.030    Applicability.

20.76.040    Exempt activities.

20.76.050    Relationship to other regulatory requirements.

20.76.060    Administration and enforcement.

20.76.070    Right of entry.

20.76.080    Notification to the Washington State Department of Revenue.

20.76.100    Forest practices – Permit required.

20.76.110    Conversion option harvest plan (COHP).

20.76.220    Six-year development moratorium.

20.76.010 Authority and purpose.

This chapter is established pursuant to the Forest Practices Act, Chapter 76.09 RCW, which provides for the county’s regulation and enforcement of certain forest practices on lands intended for conversion to nonforestry uses within the county’s jurisdictional boundaries. This chapter also sets forth procedures and criteria for the department of planning and development services (department) review of conversion option harvest plans (COHPs) and the department’s imposition of the six-year development moratorium and subsequent development requirements described in WCC 20.76.220. (Ord. 2022-035 Exh. A, 2022).

20.76.020 Definitions.

The definitions contained in RCW 76.09.020 of the Forest Practices Act and in WAC 222-16-010 and 222-16-050 of the Forest Practice Act’s implementing regulations shall apply to all terms used in this chapter; provided, that the definitions contained in Whatcom County Code shall be applicable where not in conflict with the Forest Practices Act and its implementing regulations. (Ord. 2022-035 Exh. A, 2022).

20.76.030 Applicability.

This chapter shall take effect on August 1, 2022. This chapter applies to the following:

(1) The following forest practices on lands within the county’s jurisdiction:

(a) Forest practices classified by WAC 222-16-050 as Class I, II, III, IV-General, and IV-Special that are within urban growth areas designated under RCW 36.70A.110, except for forest practices on ownerships of contiguous forestland equal to or greater than 20 acres where the applicant provides to the department and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) a written statement of intent, signed by the forest landowner(s), not to convert to a use other than growing commercial timber for 10 years. This statement must be accompanied by either:

(i) A written forest management plan acceptable to the department; or

(ii) Documentation that the land is enrolled as forestland of long-term commercial significance under the provisions of Chapter 84.33 RCW;

(b) Forest practices classified by WAC 222-16-050 as Class IV-General, outside urban growth areas designated under RCW 36.70A.110, involving either timber harvest or road construction, or both, on:

(i) Forestlands that are being converted to another use; or

(ii) Lands which, under RCW 76.09.070, are not to be reforested because of the likelihood of future conversion to urban development.

(2) Review of conversion option harvest plans described in WCC 20.76.110.

(3) Imposition of the six-year development moratorium and subsequent development requirements described in WCC 20.76.220. (Ord. 2022-035 Exh. A, 2022).

20.76.040 Exempt activities.

(1) The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to the following Class I forest practices:

(a) Culture and harvest of Christmas trees and seedlings.

(b) Road maintenance, including placement of new gravel, within the roadway. Roadway is defined by the Whatcom County Public Works Development Standards, Chapter 5 – Road Standards.

(c) Native tree planting and seeding.

(d) Loading and hauling timber from landings or decks.

(e) Emergency fire control and suppression.

(f) Forestry research studies and evaluation tests by an established research organization. (Ord. 2022-035 Exh. A, 2022).

20.76.050 Relationship to other regulatory requirements.

(1) Compliance with Federal and State Regulations. Applications filed pursuant to this chapter shall comply with all applicable federal and state regulations, including but not limited to Chapter 76.09 RCW and Chapter 222 WAC. Where other agencies or entities have concurrent jurisdiction over the proposed forest practice or development, and the director determines that the permit conditions imposed by such agencies or entities satisfy the requirements of this chapter, then those permit conditions may be relied upon for the purpose of determining compliance with the requirements of this chapter.

(2) Compliance With Other Provisions of the Whatcom County Code. Applications and plans filed pursuant to this chapter shall comply with all applicable provisions of the Whatcom County Code. (Ord. 2022-035 Exh. A, 2022).

20.76.060 Administration and enforcement.

(1) Permit, recording, and review fees associated with this chapter shall be in accordance with the current Whatcom County council’s adopted Unified Fee Schedule.

(2) The enforcement of this chapter shall be under Chapter 20.94 WCC. (Ord. 2022-035 Exh. A, 2022).

20.76.070 Right of entry.

By submitting an application under this chapter, the applicant consents to entry upon the subject site by the director during regular business hours for the purposes of making reasonable inspections, to verify information provided by the applicant, and to verify that work is being performed in accordance with the approved plans and permits and the requirements of this chapter. (Ord. 2022-035 Exh. A, 2022).

20.76.080 Notification to the Washington State Department of Revenue.

The director shall notify the Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR) within 60 days of approving a forest practices permit issued under Chapter 20.80 WCC. Such notification shall include the following information:

(1) Landowner’s legal name, address, and telephone number;

(2) Decision date of permit; and

(3) Parcel number and legal description (section, township, and range) of the subject site. (Ord. 2022-035 Exh. A, 2022).

20.76.100 Forest practices – Permit required.

(1) An approved forest practices permit shall be obtained from the department prior to conducting any forest practices described in WCC 20.76.030(1).

(2) The department shall process a forest practices permit application according to the procedures for a Type 1 administrative decision under Chapter 22.05 WCC unless submitted concurrently with a Type 2 application under Chapter 22.05 WCC, in which case the forest practices permit application shall be consolidated and processed as a Type 2 permit application. Applications for a forest practices permit shall be submitted and reviewed in compliance with the requirements in Chapter 22.05 WCC and may be processed concurrently with other development applications.

(3) The department shall not issue a forest practices permit if the subject site has been subject to a notice of conversion to nonforestry use under RCW 76.09.060 during the six-year period prior to the submission of the permit application. (Ord. 2022-035 Exh. A, 2022).

20.76.110 Conversion option harvest plan (COHP).

(1) Optional Process. As an alternative to applying for a forest practices permit under WCC 20.76.100, an applicant may choose to submit an application for a conversion option harvest plan (COHP), as defined in WCC 20.97.086, that, if approved, may preserve the landowner’s option to convert forest land to a noncommercial forest use without subjecting the site to the six-year development moratorium in WCC 20.76.220.

(2) General Requirements for a COHP Approval to the Department.

(a) An application for a COHP approval shall be submitted in compliance with the submittal requirements in Chapter 22.05 WCC.

(b) An application for COHP approval shall be submitted prior to submittal of an application for development, and prior to conducting forest practices on the subject site.

(c) The department shall review applications for COHP approvals for consistency with applicable county regulations and policies, and may inspect the subject site prior to rendering a decision.

(3) COHP Review and Approval Process.

(a) The department shall review applications for COHP approvals for consistency with applicable county regulations and policies, and may inspect the subject site prior to rendering a decision.

(b) The applicant has the burden of proving that the application for COHP approval complies with all applicable laws.

(c) The department may approve, approve with conditions, or deny an application for a COHP approval.

(d) The department’s approval of a COHP shall not release the applicant from the requirement to reforest a site under Chapter 222-34 WAC.

(e) An appeal of the department’s decision on an application for COHP approval must state the basis for the appeal and be submitted in writing to the director within 30 days of the department’s decision date. The director shall issue a written decision on the appeal to the landowner and to the appellant within 30 calendar days of receipt of the appeal.

(4) Recording Obligation. After the department has approved the COHP, the applicant shall record it with the county auditor. The COHP shall be binding upon the landowner and the landowner’s successors in interest.

(5) Duration of a COHP Approved by the Department. The department-approved COHP shall be valid for a period of two years from its approval date. (Ord. 2022-035 Exh. A, 2022).

20.76.220 Six-year development moratorium.

(1) Applicability. The department shall impose a six-year development moratorium on a site when any of the following occurs:

(a) The department receives a notice of conversion to nonforestry uses under RCW 76.09.060 from DNR.

(b) The department discovers a violation of a forest practices permit.

(c) The department becomes aware that a landowner converted their land to a nonforestry use without the proper permits or approvals that are required under this chapter.

(d) The department discovers that any condition of an approved conversion option harvest plan (COHP) has been violated.

(i) For the purposes of this subsection, “violation of a COHP” means exceeding the conditions of the COHP such as, but not limited to:

(A) Enlarging the area approved to be harvested, or increasing the volume of timber approved to be harvested; or

(B) Engaging in forest practices within a critical area or a critical area buffer as defined in Chapter 16.16 WCC.

(ii) If the department discovers that any condition of a COHP is violated, denial of applications for permits or approvals shall be recorded from the date the associated forest practice approval became effective.

(2) Duration of the Six-Year Development Moratorium. The department must deny all applications for permits or approvals:

(a) For a period of six years from the approval date of the applicable forest practices application/notification or the date that the department was made aware of the harvest activities; or

(b) Until the following activities are completed for the land that is the subject of the notice of conversion:

(i) Full compliance with the State Environmental Policy Act (Chapter 43.21C RCW), if applicable;

(ii) The DNR has notified the department that any outstanding final orders or decisions it has issued concerning the site have been resolved;

(iii) The department determines that the subject site is in full compliance with the Whatcom County Code. If full compliance is not found, the landowner must submit to the department a mitigation plan to address the violations. Required mitigation plans must be prepared by the landowner and approved by the department. Once approved, the mitigation plan must be implemented by the landowner.

(3) Notification to the Landowner of Imposition of the Six-Year Development Moratorium.

(a) The department shall notify the landowner when the following occurs:

(i) The department receives a notice of conversion to a nonforestry use from the DNR for the subject site; or

(ii) The department has identified a violation of this chapter as described in subsection (1) of this section.

(b) The notification shall contain the following:

(i) Name of landowner and tax parcel number;

(ii) Basis for the moratorium;

(iii) The effective date of the moratorium; and

(iv) Description of the appeal process.

(4) Extent of Application of the Six-Year Development Moratorium. The six-year development moratorium imposed by the department shall apply to an entire site, unless the applicant can demonstrate that the area subject to forest practices activities complies with all provisions of the Whatcom County Code. Where such compliance is demonstrated, the moratorium shall only apply to those portions of the site that were subject to the actions described in subsection (1) of this section.

(5) Appeals.

(a) Appeals of a notice of conversion to a nonforestry use issued by the DNR can be appealed to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board under Chapter 43.21B RCW.

(b) Appeals of the department’s imposition of the six-year development moratorium resulting from actions described in subsections (1)(b), (c), and (d) of this section can be appealed under the procedures in Chapter 22.05 WCC.

(6) Recording of the Six-Year Development Moratorium. The department shall record the six-year development moratorium with the county auditor after the appeal deadline to challenge the moratorium has expired, or after all appeals have been resolved if any appeals have been filed. (Ord. 2022-035 Exh. A, 2022).