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Shoreline Master Programs

Conditioning shoreline permits

Many permits are issued with conditions attached. Shoreline permit approvals must include any conditions that are needed to ensure that the project is consistent with the SMA and the shoreline master program. Local jurisdictions often apply conditions under powers granted by SEPA in order to mitigate the environmental impacts of a proposal. See WAC 197-11-660. Conditions that are necessary to mitigate impacts to shoreline resources are authorized by the SMA directly [RCW 90.58.020].

When permit approval is based on conditions, the conditions must be satisfied prior to occupancy or use of a structure or prior to commencement of a non-structural activity, unless an alternative compliance schedule is a condition of approval [WAC 173-27-090 (4)].

Conditions imposed on shoreline permits run with the property even if ownership changes, i.e. conditions must be complied with even after the permit expires for the life of the development or beyond if the circumstances warrant such an interpretation. Ecology recommends that certain conditions be recorded on the title, particularly those that commit a property owner to maintain habitat or public access. Recording conditions such as vegetation buffers, habitat mitigation areas (including submerged sites), public access points, trails, or parks, and flood control measures will alert future property owners of the commitment for maintenance of such areas in perpetuity. (Note: As a general practice many local governments avoid incorporating non-shoreline related permits or conditions into shoreline permit conditions. Keeping issues separate may help appeals and processing.

Typical conditions issued under a shoreline permit might include:

  • landscaping,
  • screening and berms,
  • hooded lighting,
  • limited operating hours,
  • provisions for public access,
  • monitoring of water quality or other environmental parameters, or
  • modifications of proposed structures to limit obstruction of shoreline views.

Under WAC 197-11-660 (SEPA), conditions or mitigating measures must be "reasonable and capable of being accomplished." The Shoreline Hearings Board has determined that the test for "reasonableness" of the conditions imposed by a local government for a permit is whether the conditions further the policy of the SMA or aid the implementation of the master program. See SHB Case No. 81-37.

Don't confuse the placing of "conditions" on a permit with "conditional use permits." The adding of conditions to a substantial development permit does not make it a conditional use permit. All permits may be conditioned.


For more information

Rule:  WAC 173-27-090

Contact Ecology's shoreline permit reviewer serving your town, city, or county.

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