Chapter 16C.01


16C.01.01    Title and Authority.

16C.01.02    Language Interpretation.

16C.01.03    Purpose of Title.

16C.01.04    Intent of Title.

16C.01.05    Applicability.

16C.01.06    Science and Protection of Anadromous Fish.

16C.01.08    Administrative Authority.

16C.01.09    Severability.

16C.01.01 Title and Authority.

Yakima County Code (YCC) Title 16C is established pursuant to RCW 36.70A.060 (Growth Management Act Natural resource lands and critical areas – Development regulations), RCW Chapter 43.21C (State Environmental Policy Act), RCW 86.16, and federal requirements for eligibility in the National Flood Insurance Program, pursuant to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 44CFR, Parts 59 and 60. This title shall be known as the “Critical Areas Ordinance of Yakima County, Washington.”

(Ord. 5-2017 § 2(C) (Exh. 1) (part), 2017: Ord. 13-2007 §1 (Exh. A)(16C.01.01), 2007).

16C.01.02 Language Interpretation.

Unless specifically defined in Chapter 16C.02, words, phrases and terms in this title shall be interpreted so as to give them the meaning they have in common usage and to give this title its most reasonable application. “Shall” is mandatory; “may” is discretionary and does not impose a requirement; “should” is always advisory; “include(s)” means includes but not limited to. When not inconsistent with the context, words used in the present tense include the future; the singular includes the plural; and the plural, the singular.

(Ord. 5-2017 § 2(C) (Exh. 1) (part), 2017: Ord. 13-2007 §1 (Exh. A)(16C.01.02), 2007).

16C.01.03 Purpose of Title.

The purpose of Title 16C is the following:

(1)    Designate, protect, and maintain the function and values of critical areas and give special consideration to conservation or protections measures necessary to reserve or enhance anadromous fisheries.

(2)    Ensure a single, uniform system of procedures and standards be applied to development within designated critical areas of unincorporated Yakima County.

(Ord. 5-2017 § 2(C) (Exh. 1) (part), 2017: Ord. 13-2007 §1 (Exh. A)(16C.01.03), 2007).

16C.01.04 Intent of Title.

(1)    Title 16C establishes policies, standards, and other provisions pertaining to development within designated critical areas regulated under the provisions of the Growth Management Act (RCW 36.70A), and development regulated under the National Flood Insurance Program and RCW 86.16. Additional purpose and intent for the protection of critical areas is provided in the chapter on each subject. Stream corridors, frequently flooded areas, wetlands, critical aquifer recharge areas, geologically hazardous areas and fish and wildlife habitat areas constitute Yakima County’s critical areas. These areas are of special concern to the people of Yakima County and the state of Washington because they are environmentally sensitive lands, or hazardous areas, which compose an important part of the county's natural resource base. The policies, standards and procedures of this title are intended to:

(a)    Preserve development options within designated critical areas where such development will not adversely impact critical area values and functions, particularly the functional properties of stream corridors and other hydrologically related critical areas;

(b)    Prevent further degradation of critical areas;

(c)    Conserve, protect and, where feasible, restore essential or important natural resources.

(d)    Protect the public health, safety and general welfare;

(e)    Further the goals and objectives of the Yakima County Comprehensive Plan and all of its elements;

(f)    Implement the goals and requirements of the Washington Growth Management Act (RCW Chapter 36.70A), and the National Flood Insurance Program;

(g)    Recognize and protect private property rights;

(h)    Provide development options for landowners of all existing lots to the greatest extent possible, through the establishment of Adjustment, Reasonable Use provisions and Non-Conforming Use and Facility provisions;

(i)    Recognize that mining and related uses are an appropriate use within designated critical areas when conducted in a manner consistent with the laws of the state that already govern mining including, but not limited to, the Surface Mining Act, RCW Chapter 78.44.

(2)    In addition, the policies, standards and procedures of this title:

(a)    Are not intended to regulate the operation and maintenance of existing, legally established uses and structures, including but not limited to vegetative buffers on existing uses that have been reduced in width prior to the effective dates of provisions in the Critical Areas Ordinance;

(b)    Are not intended to result in an unconstitutional taking of private property;

(c)    Are not intended to retroactively require the restoration of degraded critical areas for properties in a degraded condition prior to the effective dates of provisions in the Critical Areas Ordinance; but rather to utilize restoration as a tool to mitigate impacts of new development;

(d)    Are not intended to presume that regulatory tools are the only mechanism for protection, but rather integrated with non-regulatory tools in as balanced a manner as possible;

(e)    Are not intended to prohibit the use of valid water rights.

(Ord. 5-2017 § 2(C) (Exh. 1) (part), 2017: Ord. 13-2007 §1 (Exh. A)(16C.01.04), 2007).

16C.01.05 Applicability.

(1)    Except as provided in subsection (3) below, the provisions of this title shall apply to any new development, construction or use within the unincorporated portion of Yakima County designated as a critical area, irrespective of parcel boundaries, outside Shoreline jurisdiction, as determined by the Shoreline Master Program (YCC Title 16D), and upon any land mapped and designated as a special flood hazard area under the National Flood Insurance Program or as a frequently flooded area designated by this title; however, this title does not apply to the situations below, except that the Flood Hazard protection provisions of Chapters 16C.05.20 through 16C.05.72 will continue to apply as determined by the applicability provision in 16C.05.20:

(a)    Within critical areas designated by this title or amendments that may later be adopted, there may exist lots, structures and uses which were lawfully established before this title was initially adopted, amended or readopted, as provided below, but which would be subsequently prohibited, regulated or restricted under this title. It is the intent of this title to permit these pre-existing legal nonconformities to continue without requirement to change said nonconformity until such time as conformance is required through permits for development in the future. The adoption and amendment dates of the relevant regulations are provided below:

(i)    Critical Areas Ordinance adopted July 12, 1994 (YCC Title 16A);

(ii)    Critical Areas Ordinance amended October 1, 1995 (YCC Title 16A);

(iii)    Flood Hazard Ordinance adopted June 5, 1985;

(iv)    Critical Areas Ordinance amended December 15, 2007 (GMA Update - YCC Title 16C);

(v)    Critical Areas Ordinance amended June 30, 2017 (GMA Update - YCC Title 16C);

(vi)    Critical Areas Ordinance amended December 17, 2019 (Repeal of 16A).

(b)    Critical areas on federally owned lands are not subject to this title;

(c)    Forest practices, as defined by this title, carried out under a Washington Department of Natural Resources Forest Practice permit are not subject to this title, except those that involve a conversion of forest land to a nonforestry use, involve a conversion option harvest plan, or take place on lands platted after January 1, 1960;

(d)    Livestock grazing on publicly owned land, when carried out under an agreement that includes a resource management plan that will be monitored by a public entity, is not subject to this title;

(e)    Changing agricultural crops within an existing farming operation is not considered new development, construction or use, provided that the existing area under agricultural production is not extended further into a vegetative buffer identified under Section 16C.06.16, and provided that the natural contour of the land subject to this title is not altered by excavation and filling;

(f)    Minor, temporary or transient activities, including those of a recreational nature, that do not alter the environment or require a dedicated staging area, use area, or route are not subject to this title, and including temporary signs (election, sale, rent, etc.);

(g)    Critical areas within the exterior boundaries of the Yakama Nation that are located within the designated Closed Areas or not under County jurisdiction as a result of the Supreme Court decision County of Yakima et al. v. Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Indian Nation (1991) are not subject to this title;

(h)    Mining, as defined by this title, that is carried out under a Washington Department of Natural Resources reclamation permit is not subject to the geologically hazardous areas provisions of this title for erosion hazard areas, oversteepened slope hazard areas, landslide hazard areas and suspected geologic hazard areas. Other critical areas provisions continue to apply.

(2)    Other rules and regulations, including the Yakima County Unified Land Development Code (YCC Title 19), Shoreline Master Program (YCC Title 16D), and the Building and Construction Ordinance (YCC Title 13), shall remain in full force and effect as they apply to a designated critical area. Wherever the requirements of Title 16C conflict with the requirements of the applicable Zoning Ordinance, the Subdivision Ordinance or any other lawfully adopted County rules or regulations, the most restrictive standards shall govern.

(3)    Yakima County opted into the Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) as an alternative to regulatory protection of critical areas on agricultural lands. A working group comprised of agricultural groups, environmental groups, and the Yakama Nation developed a work plan that identifies goals and benchmarks to protect critical areas while maintaining the viability of agriculture through voluntary, incentive-based measures (WAC 365-191-010).

(a)    The work plan developed by the VSP working group was approved by the Washington State Conservation Commission on October 30, 2017, therefore the provisions or standards of this title will not apply to agricultural activities prior to July 22, 2011, defined as agricultural uses and practices including, but not limited to: Producing, breeding, or increasing agricultural products; rotating and changing agricultural crops; allowing land used for agricultural activities to lie fallow in which it is plowed and tilled but left unseeded; allowing land used for agricultural activities to lie dormant as a result of adverse agricultural market conditions; allowing land used for agricultural activities to lie dormant because the land is enrolled in a local, state, or federal conservation program, or the land is subject to a conservation easement; conducting agricultural operations; maintaining, repairing, and replacing agricultural equipment; maintaining, repairing, and replacing agricultural facilities, provided that the replacement facility is no closer to the shoreline than the original facility; and maintaining agricultural lands under production or cultivation (RCW 36.70A.703(1) and RCW 90.58.065).

(b)    If the approved work plan by the Washington State Conservation Commission fails to meet goals, benchmarks, or receive adequate funding, the provisions and policies of this title will apply to agricultural activities (RCW 36.70A.735).

(Ord. 10-2019 (Exh. 1) (part), 2019: Ord. 5-2017 § 2(C) (Exh. 1) (part), 2017: Res. 80-2016 (Exh. A) (part), 2016; Ord. 13-2007 §1 (Exh. A)(16C.01.05), 2007).

16C.01.06 Science and Protection of Anadromous Fish.

This title has been updated consistent with the requirements for:

(1)    Using the best available science as required by RCW 36.70A.172 (Critical areas – Designation and protection – Best available science to be used) and WAC 365-195-900 through WAC 365-195-920 (BAS Background and purpose);

(2)    Giving special consideration to conservation or protection measures necessary to preserve or enhance anadromous fish (salmon, steelhead, pacific lamprey etc.) and their habitat, as required by RCW 36.70A.172 (Best available science to be used) and WAC 365-195-925 (Criteria for demonstrating “special consideration” has been given to anadromous fisheries).

(Ord. 5-2017 § 2(C) (Exh. 1) (part), 2017: Ord. 13-2007 §1 (Exh. A)(16C.01.06), 2007).

16C.01.08 Administrative Authority.

(1)    The Yakima County Public Services Department – Planning Division shall be responsible for the general administration of this title. The Planning Division Manager or the Manager’s designee shall serve as the Administrative Official of this title, except as noted in Chapters 16C.05.20 through 16C.05.72. The Administrative Official shall establish procedures for implementation of this title.

(a)    Where the provisions of these regulations may be unclear in special circumstances, or where judgment must be made because of the nature of the language used, the Administrative Official shall make such interpretations. A separate record of all interpretations shall be kept. To avoid arbitrariness, any earlier interpretation that may relate to a pending action shall be examined by the Administrative Official for its effect or influence on the pending action.

(b)    A written request for interpretation of any provision of this title, or any rule or regulation adopted pursuant to this title, may be submitted to the Administrative Official. Each request shall set forth the specific provision or provisions to be interpreted and the facts of the specific situation giving rise to the request for an interpretation. Interpretations shall be processed in accordance with YCC Section 16B.03.070.

(Ord. 5-2017 § 2(C) (Exh. 1) (part), 2017: Ord. 13-2007 §1 (Exh. A)(16C.01.08), 2007).

16C.01.09 Severability.

If any provision of the ordinance codified in this title or its application to any person or legal entity or circumstances is held to be invalid, the remainder of said ordinance or the application of the provision to other persons or legal entities or circumstances shall not be affected.

(Ord. 5-2017 § 2(C) (Exh. 1) (part), 2017: Ord. 13-2007 §1 (Exh. A)(16C.01.09), 2007).