Introduction to the shoreline permit system
Washington's Shoreline Management Act establishes a local/state
partnership in administering permits. Local governments have the
primary responsibility for initiating the planning required by the act and
administering the regulatory program. Ecology's role is to act
primarily in a supportive and review capacity with an emphasis on
providing assistance to local government and on insuring compliance
with the policies and provisions of the Shoreline Management Act.
Most "developments" within shorelines of
the state must be consistent with the policies of the SMA and the
requirements of the local SMP.
Most developments that meet a specific dollar threshold are considered "substantial developments"
and require a
development permit (SDP).
Certain kinds of development are exempt from
substantial development, conditional use, and/or variance permit requirements. (Note:
exempt from the requirement to obtain a SDP must comply with
the policies of the SMA and substantive requirements of the local
master program. A proposed development may be found exempt from requirements
for an SDP but may still require a variance or conditional use permit.)
Under certain circumstances, local governments can allow deviations
from SMP requirements through
variance (VARs) or
conditional use permits (CUPs).
All shoreline permits are processed by the local
government. Following the local government decision on all permit
applications, applications are sent to Ecology. Ecology must approve, approve with conditions or deny
each conditional use permits and variances. Ecology does not have direct
approval authority over the more common SDPs - if they are found
inconsistent with the local SMP and the SMA, Ecology may file an appeal
with the Shorelines Hearings Board.
Pre application: many
jurisdictions hold a pre-application conference between the staff and
applicant, and often, with other agencies with jurisdiction over the
Application: the permit application must include a detailed site plan,
a vicinity map, text describing the location of proposed use(s), proposed
and existing structures, utilities, fill, information on the natural
shoreline environment, local shoreline designation information and
location of the OHWM. A SEPA checklist is also often required. The state
rule that describes application requirements is
Notice: notice of the public
comment period must be given for all shoreline permits. State rule
describing notice requirements is
Local government review and decision :
local government technical review of the
proposal, including compliance with SEPA review requirements, usually
results in a staff report containing recommendations for the decision
maker(s). After the public comment period, the local government makes a
decision on the permit application. All SEPA requirements must be met
prior to the decision. Upon a final local government decision, all
approved permits and denied permit applications are filed with Ecology.
Ecology review: Ecology has
authority to approve or deny CUPs and
Variances. If Ecology disagrees with a local government decision on an SDP,
the agency must appeal to the
Board. Citizens may appeal local or state
Permit revisions: permits may be revised during processing or
after issuance, if the local government determines that the changes are
"within the scope and intent of the original permit."
WAC 173-27-090(5) and
WAC 173-27-100(2) and (3)
Permit rescissions: if a local government finds that a permittee has
not complied with the conditions of a permit, the permit may
be rescinded after a hearing for which public notice is given [see
Appeals: local SMPs may contain
provisions for a local appeals process. At the state level, requests for review are heard by the Shorelines
Hearings Board, a
quasi-judicial body created to hear permit appeals by aggrieved parties. Permits may be upheld, reversed or remanded to the
local government with instructions to issue a new permit consistent with
the SHB order. [See RCW 90.58.140 and
For more information
Ecology's shoreline permit reviewer serving your town, city, or county.
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