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Director:
J.E. “Sam” Ryan, CBO

5280 Northwest Drive
Bellingham, Washington 98226
Telephone: (360) 676-6907
E-mail: pds@co.whatcom.wa.us

 
Development Review

Administrative Use Permit

An Administrative Use Permit is required for uses which are not normally permitted in a given zoning designation, but which may be approved at  the discretion of the zoning administrator.  Common Administrative Use Permits include, but are not limited to, accessory apartment, temporary second dwelling units, cottage industries and mini-day care homes.  The process includes submittal of an Administrative Approval Application, including appropriate fees, to Planning and Development Services (PDS).  PDS staff will then route the application to members of the Technical Review Committee including Critical Areas, Plans Examiner, Public Works, and Fire Marshal’s Office and a Notice of Application will be sent to property owners within 300 or 1000 feet.  Staff will then either issue approval, a request for more information or a denial of the application.  Once approved the applicant can then apply for building permits associated with the administrative approval.

 

Binding Site Plan

A Binding Site Plan (BSP) is a process used to create parcels for sale or lease as an alternative to the long plat procedures required by Chapter 58.17 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW).  Binding site plans are required to create parcels for industrial or commercial use, create lease spaces for a mobile home park or RV park when no other residential structures are permitted and/or create parcels for condominium ownership. 

The BSP process is a three step process with preliminary BSP approval by the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner and General and Specific BSP approval by the PDS, Public Works and the Health Department.  Lots cannot be sold until Specific BSP’s are signed and recorded with the Whatcom County Auditor. 

 

Boundary Line Adjustment

A Boundary Line Adjustment (BLA) is required for approval of adjustments or alterations to boundary lines of existing lots of record.  A BLA cannot create any additional lot, tract, parcel, site or division and any lot altered through a BLA must have sufficient area and dimensions to meet minimum requirements for width and area for a building site.  A BLA must be consistent with the minimum lot size for the zone (except for Agricultural BLA’s). 

The process includes submittal of a Boundary Line Adjustment Application with appropriate fees to Planning and Development Services (PDS).  PDS staff will then route the application to members of the Technical Review Committee including Critical Areas, Plans Examiner, Public Works, and Fire Marshal’s Office.  Staff will then either issue preliminary approval, a request for more information or a denial of the application.  The applicant must then have a surveyor prepare a map and deeds must be written to reflect the proposed BLA.  Staff will then stamp the map and deeds and the applicant must have them recorded with the Whatcom County Auditor within one year of preliminary approval.

Agricultural Boundary Line Adjustment

An Agricultural Boundary Line Adjustment (AG BLA) is processed similar to a standard BLA, however the minimum lot size may be reduced to one to three (1-3) acres pursuant to the requirements of WCC 20.40.250.  In an AG BLA the small lot must contain an existing single family residence and the remainder lot (at least 10 acres) must contain a deed restriction stating there shall be no single family residential density associated with the remainder. 

 

Conditional Use Permit

A Conditional Use Permit is required for any use listed under the conditional use section in a given zoning designation.  Conditional use permits are generally required for a variety of uses, including but not limited to, schools, churches, signs, mobile home parks, some commercial businesses etc.  The process includes submittal of a Conditional Use Permit Application with appropriate fees to Planning and Development Services (PDS).  PDS staff will then route the application to members of the Technical Review Committee including Critical Areas, Plans Examiner, Public Works, and Fire Marshal’s Office and a Notice of Application will be sent to property owners within 300 or 1000 feet. 

Staff will then review the application with the Technical Review Committee  requesting their comments and conditions of approval and either issue a request for more information or make a recommendation of approval or denial of the application to the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner.  A public hearing will be held with the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner and he will either approve or deny the application.  After approval by the Hearing Examiner the applicant may apply for building permits consistent with the conditions of approval for the conditional use.

 

Exempt Land Divisions

An exempt land division involved land divisions exempt from subdivision requirements pursuant to WCC 21.01.040 except that land divisions into parcels greater than 20 acres (or 40 acres in the Agricultural or Commercial Forestry zones) and parcels created for environmental mitigation must receive approval from Planning and Development Services (PDS). 

The process includes submittal of a Subdivision Exemption Application with appropriate fees to PDS.  Staff will then route the application to members of the Technical Review Committee including Critical Areas, Plans Examiner, Public Works, and Fire Marshal’s Office.  Staff will then either issue preliminary approval, a request for more information or a denial of the application.  The applicant must then have a surveyor prepare a map and deeds must be written to reflect the proposed subdivision.  Staff will then stamp the map and deeds and the applicant must have them recorded with the Whatcom County Auditor within one year of preliminary approval.

 

Long Subdivisions

A long subdivision is a land division of a legal lot of record into five or more lots consistent with zoning.  The long subdivision process involves a submittal of a Long Subdivision
Pre-Application Meeting Application for a pre-application meeting with representatives of Planning and Development Services (PDS), the Health Department, Public Works and the Fire Marshal’s Office.  After the pre-application meeting the applicant can then submit a Long Subdivision Preliminary Application to PDS including all application materials, maps prepared by a surveyor and appropriate fees. 

A Notice of Application for the proposal will be run in the newspaper and sent to properties within either 300 or 1000 feet of the property.  Staff will then review the application with the Technical Review Committee, complete the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review and either issue a request for more information or make a recommendation of preliminary approval or denial of the application to the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner.  A public hearing will be held with the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner and he will either approve or deny the preliminary approval.  After preliminary approval the applicant can then make improvements consistent with the preliminary approval conditions and submit the Long Subdivision Final Application for review and approval.  The final drawing (mylar) is then recorded with the Auditor and the applicant can sell the lots created through the subdivision process.

 

Lot of Record

A Lot of Record (LOR) is reviewed consistent with the following definition:

WCC 20.97.220 Lot of record.“Lot of record” means a lot which is described by final plat, short plat, or metes and bounds, and is established pursuant to applicable local and state regulations at the date a legal instrument creating the lot is recorded at the Whatcom County auditor’s office.

Review is based upon a deed history and maps provided by the applicant to determine if the lot was created prior to 1972 or if the lot was created after 1972 and is consistent with the subdivision regulations in effect at the time of creation. LOR’s are performed for all exemptions, boundary line adjustments, short plats, binding site plans and long subdivisions. 

A Lot of Record Application is submitted at the front counter and assigned to a planner for review.  Staff uses the application materials and GIS, Assessor’s and Auditor’s websites, and plat index to determine how and when the lot was created.  Then staff writes a letter to the applicant either approving or denying the LOR.  If parcels are determined to be LOR’s then the applicant can use them for their own use, for sale purposes, and can be subdivided.  If the parcel is determined not to be a LOR then the applicant can not sell or apply for permits on that parcel. 

 

Planned Unit Developments

A planned unit development (PUD) is one or a group of specified uses, such as residential, resort, commercial or industrial, to be planned and constructed as a unit within an Urban Growth Area. Zoning and subdivision regulations related to lot size, building area, etc. may be varied to allow design innovations and special features in exchange for additional and/or superior site amenities or community benefits.  PUD’s are typically processed with subdivision, binding site plans or conditional use permit applications and will be processed in accordance with the underlying permit, except that for a PUD the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner will make a recommendation for approval or denial to the Whatcom County Council for final decision. 

 

Short Subdivisions

A short subdivision is a land division of a legal lot of record into less than five lots consistent with zoning.  The short subdivision process involves submittal of a Short Subdivision Pre-Application Meeting Application for a meeting with representatives of Planning and Development Services (PDS), the Health Department, Public Works and the Fire Marshal’s Office.  After the pre-application meeting the applicant can then submit a Short Subdivision Application to PDS including all application materials, maps prepared by a surveyor and appropriate fees.  Staff will then review the application with the Technical Review Committee and either issue preliminary approval, a request for more information or a denial of the application.  After preliminary approval the applicant can then make improvements consistent with the preliminary approval conditions and submit the Short Subdivision Final Application for review and approval.  The final drawing (mylar) is then recorded with the Auditor and the applicant can sell the lots created through the subdivision process.

Agricultural Short Subdivision

An Agricultural Short Subdivision (AG Short Subdivision) is similar to a short subdivision, except that one (1) lot can be created that is between one and three acres (1-3) with the remainder lot at least 10 acres pursuant to WCC 20.40.250.  The small lot must contain an existing single family residence and the remainder lot must contain a deed restriction prohibiting single family residential development.  The review process for an AG Short Subdivision is abbreviated and includes minor review by Critical Areas, Public Works and the Health Department. 

 

Variance

A variance may be requested when the subject lot has physical constraints that do not allow the construction of a use normally permitted in the same zoning designation.  Variances are designed to allow minor modifications on a site, such as increasing the amount of impervious surface on a property, decreasing setbacks, or lot coverage requirements in order to accommodate construction on lots where there is a physical hardship. 

The variance process involves submittal of a Variance Application packet and payment of the required fees.  A Notice of Application for the proposal will be run in the newspaper and sent to properties within either 300 or 1000 feet of the property.  Staff will then review the application with the Technical Review Committee  requesting their comments and conditions of approval and either issue a request for more information or make a recommendation of approval or denial of the application to the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner.  A public hearing will be held with the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner and he will either approve or deny the preliminary approval.  After approval by the Hearing Examiner the applicant may apply for building permits consistent with the conditions of approval for the variance.