Chapter 20.88


20.88.010    Purpose.

20.88.100    Major project permits.

20.88.200    Procedure.

20.88.010 Purpose.

To establish standards and procedures that will provide for special review of those projects or developments that because of their magnitude and impact will tend to affect the public at large.

20.88.100 Major project permits.

.110 All major developments shall, prior to any construction, obtain a major project permit.

.120 A major project permit will be required for mitigation banks proposed in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 16.16 WCC and for any proposed development that meets any two of the following conditions:



(estimated construction cost exclusive of land value)







75,000 square feet



office or industrial (gross leasable floor space)

200,000 square feet




300 dwelling units




200 units



Number of Employees




SEPA Review

An EIS is required

In addition the zoning administrator may make an administrative determination after receiving a recommendation from the technical review committee that any project be considered a major development, if in the opinion of the administration it is of a nature that council review would be appropriate.

.130 Pursuant to WCC 22.05.120 the hearing examiner shall recommend to the county council project approval, approval with conditions, or denial, based upon written findings and conclusions supported by the evidence of record. The hearing examiner’s recommendation and county council’s decision shall determine the adequacy of a major project permit application based on the following criteria:

(1) Will comply with the development standards and performance standards of the zone in which the proposed major development will be located; provided where a proposed major development has obtained a variance from the development and performance standards, standards as varied shall be applied to that project for the purposes of this act.

(2) Where the project is conditionally permitted in the zone in which it is located, the project must satisfy the standards for the issuance of a conditional use permit for the zone in which the project is located.

(3) Prior to commencement of any site preparation or construction activities, will obtain, if required, a state aquatic lands lease, and all other necessary permit consultations and authorizations, including federal determinations that the project will not interfere with treaty fishing rights of tribal nations, the limits set forth in the “Magnuson Amendment” under 33 U.S.C. § 476(b) (2004), Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (for structures in or over navigable waters of the U.S.), the Coastal Zone Management Act (including any state Department of Ecology shoreline conditional use or variance approval), the Clean Air Act, and/or under the Clean Water Act, including but not limited to a federal Section 404 authorization (for fill into waters of the U.S.) and a state Section 401 water quality certification.

(4) Will not substantially interfere with the operation of existing uses.

(5) Will be served by, or will be provided with essential utilities, facilities and services necessary to its operation, such as roads, drainage facilities, electricity, water supply, sewage disposal facilities, and police and fire protection. Standards for such utilities, facilities and services shall be those currently accepted by the state of Washington, Whatcom County, or the appropriate agency or division thereof.

(6) Will not impose uncompensated requirements for public expenditures for additional utilities, facilities and services, and will not impose uncompensated costs on other property owned.

(7) Will be appropriately responsive to any EIS prepared for the project.

.140 In addition, the hearing examiner may recommend or county council may impose any reasonable conditions precedent to the establishment of the major development as may be required to mitigate impacts of the proposal on the natural environment of the county, and to protect the health, safety and general welfare of the people of the county consistent with the policies for environmental protection set forth in the Comprehensive Plan. The county decision maker may approve a major project permit with a condition to obtain relevant leases and complete any necessary federal and state permitting requirements, and may restrict the major project permittee from undertaking site preparation or construction activities until it has fulfilled that condition.

.150 The hearing examiner may recommend or county council may also approve alternative mitigation plans for major project permits in accordance with WCC 16.16.260(E) which may be used to satisfy the requirements of Chapter 16.16 WCC and provide relief from the specific standards and requirements thereof. (Ord. 2021-046 § 3 (Exh. C), 2021; Ord. 2018-032 § 1 (Exh. D), 2018; Ord. 2005-068 § 2, 2005; Ord. 98-083 Exh. A § 66, 1998; Ord. 96-056 Att. A § A2, 1996; Ord. 91-075, 1991).

20.88.200 Procedure.

.205 If a major project permit is determined to be required, an application shall be completed and filed along with the appropriate fees, and the application shall be processed in accordance with Chapter 22.05 WCC. A master plan is required as part of the application for a major project permit. The master plan document shall include all elements required per the department’s administrative manual.

.210 Development Standards. The major project permit may propose standards that will control development of the possible future uses that are in addition to, or substitute for, requirements of this chapter. These may be such things as height limits, setbacks, frontage, landscaping requirements, parking requirements, signage, view corridors or facade treatments. Proposed standards that do not meet the minimum county standards must obtain the appropriate variance prior to county approval of the proposed standards. If the proposed design standards will apply to property located partially or totally within an urban growth area, concurrence of the affected city will be required.

.215 Procedures. Major project permit review shall be conducted under current review procedures. Other land use reviews may be conducted concurrently with the major project permit review.

(a) Any modifications, additions or changes to an approved master plan are subject to the following:

(i) Minor changes shall be reviewed for compliance and compatibility with the approved major project permit.

(A) A determination is made by the director. The director is authorized to consult a technical committee at his/her discretion.

(B) Minor changes are those amendments which may affect the dimensions, location and type of improvements of facilities; provided, the amendment maintains the basic character of the major project permit application approved by the county council including general type and location of dwellings and other land use activities, arrangement of buildings, density of the development, and provisions of the project to meet density bonus and open space requirements, or capacity limits, and maintains required conditions or mitigation.

(ii) Major changes shall be subject to the original procedural application type, subject to the fees as contained in the unified fee schedule.

(iii) Major project permits may include, as a condition of their approval, a requirement for periodic progress reports and mandatory updates on a predetermined interval.

.220 through .265 Reserved.

.270 Where a project requires a major project permit, that project shall be exempt from the requirement of obtaining a conditional use permit.

.275 Major project permits: Where an applicant has applied for a planned unit development or a development agreement, that project shall be exempt from the requirement to obtain a major project permit except in the Cherry Point Industrial District.

.280 Major project permits in the Cherry Point Industrial District: Where a project in the Cherry Point Industrial District requires a major project permit, the major project permit shall be concurrently processed with other required land use permits including but not limited to: planned unit development or development agreement. (Ord. 2021-046 § 3 (Exh. C), 2021; Ord. 2019-013 § 1 (Exh. A), 2019; Ord. 2018-032 § 1 (Exh. D), 2018; Ord. 2016-011 § 1 (Exh. H), 2016; Ord. 2003-039 Exh. A, 2003; Ord. 99-081, 1999; Ord. 96-056 Att. A § A2, 1996; Ord. 93-091, 1993; Ord. 91-075, 1991; Ord. 87-12, 1987; Ord. 87-11, 1987; Ord. 86-16, 1986).