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Land Use / Master Use - Environmentally Critical Areas (ECA)

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What Is It?

Environmentally critical areas (ECAs) include wetlands, flood-prone areas, abandoned landfills, fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas, and steep slopes and other geologic hazard areas.

In addition to our zoning regulations, properties within ECAs are regulated by Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) section 25.09, which includes specific development standards for each type of ECA.

If you cannot follow the rules for the type of ECA in which your project is located, and your project is not eligible for an exemption or waiver, then you may be able to apply for one of the following types of permits.

ECA Variance: This permit may allow you to:

  • Reduce your yards or setbacks to maintain the required riparian management area, steep slope, or wetland buffer
  • Develop in a steep slope or steep slope buffer

ECA Administrative Conditional Use: This type of permit may allow you to modify some ECA and Land Use Code standards when:

  • You plat parcels of land
  • Your project has more than one dwelling unit

ECA Exception: With this type of permit, you may be able to modify ECA standards if they prevent reasonable use of your property. To qualify for an ECA exception, you must demonstrate that your property could not be developed under all the other code options, including a variance or administrative conditional use.

Developments located within the following ECAs and their buffers may also require environmental review (SEPA).

  • Landslide-prone areas including steep slopes
  • Wetlands
  • Fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas

For more information, see our Environmentally Critical Areas Code page or read SMC 25.05.908.

How Much Does It Cost?

Our review fee is $250 per hour. You need to provide a deposit when you submit your land use application. After we accept your application, we will send you a monthly invoice for all review time completed in that billing cycle. If you do not pay your invoice, we will stop reviewing your project.

How Long Does It Take?

How long it takes us to complete our review of your proposal depends on several factors, including the:

  • Complexity of your proposal
  • Whether environmental review is required
  • Quality of your plans and project documentation
  • Timely response to correction letters and requests for further information
  • Public interest

Steps to Get Your Permit

 

1. Research

Find your property information. Research your site to help you plan your project.

Determine restrictions to your project. Research the codes to determine standards that will apply to your proposal.

Attend a coaching session. We offer 20 minutes of free coaching in the Applicant Services Center to answer drainage, land use, geotechnical, or construction permit questions. If you need a longer coaching session, we offer one-hour land use or zoning sessions for $250.

2. Start Permit Application

Apply for a project number. Get a project number by starting your application online or by submitting a preliminary application in person, by mail, or by fax. You will need to provide a site plan.

Request a pre-application site visit. Pre-application site visits are required for all land use projects. Request a pre-application site visit online or submit a pre-application site visit form. Our report will include information about your next steps, potential right-of-way or utility improvements, what to include in your plans, and what to provide at your intake appointment.

Request a pre-submittal conference (optional). We recommend pre-submittal conferences for very complex projects, including work in environmentally critical areas or shorelines. One-hour pre-submittal conference fees vary based on the type of conference you need.

Apply for exemptions. You may be eligible for exemption from environmentally critical area and/or shoreline code requirements.

Coordinate with other agencies. You may need permits or approvals from other agencies. These are the most common agencies you may need to work with for your permit type:

Prepare your plans and technical documents. Plans should be to scale and easy to read and scan. You may need to submit technical documents including a survey, geotechnical and wetland reports, and other types of reports. Our Tips and code standards provide additional detail on the type of plans and reports we require to review your proposal.

3. Submit Plans

Schedule an intake appointment. Call (206) 684-8850 to schedule an intake appointment at the Applicant Services Center, or schedule an electronic appointment. 

Pay fees. You must pay a deposit for your review and noticing fees at intake. We will invoice you monthly for additional fees review process. We will stop reviewing your project if you do not pay your monthly invoice.

Wait for public notice. We will issue a public notice for your project as required by SMC 23.76.012. If required, you are responsible for building and installing a large environmental public notice sign. Once you've installed the sign, let us know and we'll begin our public notice process.

We'll consider all public comments we receive during the 2 - 4 week public comment period.

Make corrections and resubmit your plans. Once all of our reviews are done, we will contact you to pick up your plan sets and make corrections. Your project may require multiple correction rounds before our review is complete.

Pay outstanding fees. Once our review is complete, you must pay any remaining fees before we publish our decision.

Read our decision. We will publish our decision on your project in our Land Use Information Bulletin once all reviews are complete. We will also send a notice of our decision to everybody that submitted a public comment on your project. Our decision will include any required conditions of approval.

Submit an appeal. If you or a member of the public disagree with our decision, you may file an appeal with the Seattle Hearing Examiner within 14 days from when we publish our decision.

4. Get Permit

Pick up permit. Once DPD has approved your project, you will be contacted to pick up your permit and approved plans at the permit issuance counter in the Applicant Services Center.

5. Apply for Construction Permit

You may apply for a construction permit at any time once you submit a land use application. However, the project can change and evolve through the land use application review process. Corrections required by our decision may require building plan changes that can result in costly design changes.

What Do You Want To Do?


Still Need Help?


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