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Shoreline Permit Guidelines
Most of Snohomish County’s prime farmlands lie near large waterways and within the jurisdiction of the state's Shorelines Management Act. The County’s Shorelines Management Master Program implements this law through regulation of agricultural and development activities along “waters of the state” including larger lakes, river deltas, floodplains; and, associated wetlands.
There are several types of Shorelines permits depending on the type of activity being proposed. Some agricultural activities are exempt from Shorelines permit requirements.
This guide is intended as a quick reference to give farm operators an idea of the code requirements involved to accomplish their proposed activity. It is important to keep in mind that even if an activity is exempt from the substantial development provisions of the state Shorelines Management Act, it must still be carried out in compliance with the Act and the County's Shoreline Master Program.
Because every property and situation is different, and because the code is written in fairly general terms, it is best to consult with PDS to get a reliable answer. Please email or call our Agricultural Planner, Roxanne Pilkenton, at 425-388-3311 ext. 2731.
Do you need a Shoreline
Substantial Development Permit?
Follow these steps to find out:
- Check the Regulatory Boundary Maps for Agriculture to see if your property is in an area covered by shorelines regulations. (Note also if it is in a flood hazard zone. If it is you will need to find out about whether or not you also need that permit.)
- Click on the regulatory report feature within the Map to obtain the Allowable Uses for Shorelines Designations. Check to see if your intended activity is listed. Remember even if an activity is exempt (allowable) from the substantial development permit provisions of the state Shorelines Management Act, it must still be carried out in compliance with the Act and the County’s Shorelines Master Program.
- (Optional) If you would like to view the complete language of the Shoreline Management Permit Ordinance, click on this phrase and type “Title 30.44” in the search box.
- Learn about the Three Types of Shorelines Permits
Shorelines Substantial Development Permit
A “substantial development” is any development activity within shoreline jurisdiction of which the total cost, or fair market value (includes labor), whichever is higher, exceeds $5,000; or, any development which materially interferes with the normal public use of the water or shorelines of the state. However, some activities that fit this general definition are exempt from substantial development permit requirements. See below for more details.
Shorelines Substantial Development Permits (SSDP) are granted when the development proposed is consistent with the policies and procedures of the Shorelines Management Act, the County’s Shorelines Master Program, the provisions of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and other county land use regulations. In certain cases, a Conditional Use permit or Variance from specific requirements may be needed.
Snohomish County issues SSDP’s, but does not have authority to approve Conditional Use permits or Variances. Applications for Shorelines permits (including SSDP’s, Conditional Uses or Variances) are forwarded to the State Department of Ecology for final approval or disapproval.
Shorelines permit exemptions only apply to SSDP’s, not Conditional Use permits or Variances. A Conditional Use permit or Variance may be required even if an SSDP is not.
Shorelines Conditional Use Permit
Shoreline conditional uses are specified in the County’s Shorelines Master Program. Shoreline use activities not specifically identified and for which policies and regulations have not been developed are considered conditional uses. In authorizing a conditional use, special conditions may be attached to the permit by the County or by the State Department of Ecology (DOE) to prevent undesirable effects of the use/development on the shoreline area and waters. The DOE is the approval authority for this permit.
Shorelines Variance Permit
The County’s Shoreline Master Program contains development standards for dimensions, setbacks, heights, etc. in shoreline areas. Under certain circumstances, a variance may be granted from those standards by the State Department of Ecology (DOE).
Variances are limited to granting relief to specific bulk, dimensional and performance standards set forth in the Shorelines Master Program where there are extraordinary or unique circumstances related to the property such that the strict implementation of the master program would impose unnecessary hardships on the applicant or thwart the policies set forth in the Shorelines Management Act.
|IF your activity occurs within 200 feet of the “Ordinary High Water Mark” of a designated shoreline, or occurs within the flood hazard zone of a designated shoreline . . .
AND, your agricultural activity or development costs more than $5,000 in materials and labor.
See Note 1: Definitions
Next Steps if a Permit is Needed
|IF your property is not located within a designated Shoreline area . . . (see Regulatory Boundary Map)
OR, if your property is located within a designated shoreline area, your agricultural activity consists of construction and practices normal or necessary for farming, irrigation, and ranching activities…but not including feedlots, processing plants, or other commercial type activities, nor any significant grading or filling activities*
*Alteration of the contour of wetlands by leveling or filling other than that which results from ongoing cultivation, shall not be considered normal or necessary for farming or ranching activities.
See Note 2: Exemptions