Development Reviews

Items Reviewed For

Development activities proposed within a critical area or critical area buffer are reviewed for:
  • Consistency with the purpose and standards of the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO)
  • Identification and implementation of protective or mitigating measures that are adequate enough to protect critical area function, as well as protect the public health, safety, and welfare


The county will use the following procedure for critical areas review upon submittal of a project or land use application:
  • The technical administrator will determine if the project is located within a critical area or its potential buffer area.
  • If the proposed activity is located within a critical area or its buffer, the technical administrator will confirm the presence or absence through site inspection or other appropriate means.
  • A Site Plan Review is required when any part of the project may impact a regulated critical area, and/or its buffer.
  • A critical areas specialist (i.e., qualified consultant) shall prepare the report. A consultant list can be found online. Compilation of this list in no way constitutes an endorsement of the individuals identified herein; rather, this serves only as a list of those persons having provided documentation of the required educational training and cumulative experience consistent with the definition of a qualified specialist in Article 8 of Title 16.16 of the Whatcom County Critical Areas Ordinance.
  • The recommendation and conclusions of the approved report will be used to assist the administrator in making a final decision concerning critical areas jurisdiction and appropriate mitigation measures.
Read the administrative provisions code language, including exempt activities and those allowed with notification.


Not all activities in Critical Areas or their buffers require a full review. Fill out an application for activities allowed with notification (PDF). Notifications will be approved, conditioned, or denied within 10 business days. Applicants should contact the county to discuss the project proposal prior to filling out applications.

View information about farm plans through their section.


See the Planning and Development Services section of the Unified Fee Schedule (PDF) for application and review fees.