Development on Environmentally Sensitive Lands

Development on Environmentally Sensitive Lands

​Many projects will require review by Community Development for compliance with environmental regulations, specifically:

  • Shoreline Master Program (Title 22)

    Proposed development activities within 200 feet or less of the shoreline (measured from Ordinary High-Water Mark), including marine shorelines, lakes over 20 acres and some larger streams

Below are some frequently asked questions associated with the above environmental review. Please take a look at the Kitsap County Parcel Search mapping tool to determine if your property may have these critical areas. If you still have questions, please schedule a free 15-minute visit with a Land Use/Environmental Planner or visit our Development Assistance page.

   What are "geologically hazardous areas" and what are my required setbacks?

(KCC 19.400 and 19.700.725KCC Title 12)

Moderate Hazard slopes (light pink on the Parcel Search map) are generally any slopes measuring between 15-29% (elevation change divided by the horizontal distance). There is a minimum 40' top or toe (bottom) of slope setback (25' vegetated + additional 15' building setback). If that minimum setback cannot be met or the slope is uniform across the parcel, a Geological Slope Assessment from a licensed geologist is required. In some cases, the site may be mapped as Moderate Hazard due to factors other than slope (soil type of depth may present erosion or seismic hazards). A report or letter from a licensed geologist may still be required.

High Hazard Slopes (dark pink on the Parcel Search map) are any slopes 30% or greater (or known fault lines). There is a minimum top or toe of slope setback of a distance equal to: the height of the slope (elevation change from top to bottom), plus 1/3 of that height or 25', whichever is greater. For example, if the height of the slope is 100 feet, the minimum setback would be 133' (100' + 33'), without requiring a Geotechnical Report per KCC Title 19. HOWEVER, Title 12 Storm water is going to require this geotechnical report for any development activity within 200' of any "critical slope" (over 30%). So even if you able to meet the minimum setback for Title 19, they may still need this report.

Reports are generally valid for five years without needing at least an addendum letter.

Do not rely on the map colors to indicate these (or any) critical areas. As with all Critical Areas provided on Kitsap County Parcel Search, they are not a substitute for an actual survey or field review. Kitsap County Code will apply to actual conditions on the ground. The "contours" layer in Parcel search may help give you better idea of possible slopes, but it is also not a substitute for a survey.

If a geologist goes out and determines that the site does not meet the threshold for a geologic hazard, contrary to the County's data, then a stamped letter from the licensed geologist will suffice in lieu of a full report.

    What is my shoreline setback?

All marine shorelines, lakes over 20 acres, and some segments of larger streams are considered "shorelines of the state" and are regulated under the Kitsap County Shoreline Master Program (Title 22). Your shoreline parcel will have a "Shoreline Environment Designation", which can be identified by selecting "Shoreline Management" under the Parcel Search themes. Your shoreline buffer will depend on your designation. There is an additional 15-foot building setback for all buffers. The lower number is the farthest reduction possible without requiring a Shoreline Variance. 

Shoreline Residential 85' to 50'

Rural Conservancy 130' to 100'

Urban Conservancy 100' to 85' (50' if net habitat gain)

High Intensity 50' (no reduction)

Natural 200' to 150'

Reductions require a Shoreline Mitigation Plan submitted with your shoreline and building permits. No additional Shoreline permit is required for a single-family residence at this time. Reductions for Rural Conservancy and Natural designation must meet the criteria in 22.400.120(B)(3) for having a constrained lot, etc. Top-of-slope setbacks (see "geologically hazardous areas") and View Blockage standards (22.400.135) may be much greater than the shoreline buffer, so keep that in mind. The greatest buffer or setback will apply.

Depending on the proposed use, you may need either a:

Shoreline Exemption Permit;

A typical project that would qualify for a Shoreline Exemption Permit are:

§ Projects that meet the current "fair market value" ($7,047), including marine overwater structures. The freshwater overwater structure threshold is $10,000.

§ Projects that meet the definitions in Title 22 for "normal maintenance or repair".

§ Water-dependent storage (boat houses) below the reduced shoreline buffer, but above Ordinary High Water.

§ New "soft" or replacement in-kind shoreline armoring may qualify for a Shoreline Exemption Permit.

Shoreline Substantial Development Permit;

Shoreline Administrative Conditional Use Permit;

Shoreline Conditional Use Permit; or

Shoreline Variance Permit (Type II or Type III).

   What are the wetland setbacks on this parcel?

(KCC 19.200 and 19.700.710 and 715)

Any development activity (building or clearing) within 250' of a known (blue plant area in Parcel Search) or potential wetland (hydric soils- green area in Parcel Search; or aerial interpretation of topography and vegetation) will require a wetland report to determine the boundaries, category, buffers, and setbacks. Single-family development can provide a Single-Family Wetland Certification in lieu of a full Wetland Report (KCC 19.700). A mitigation plan will be required if the wetland buffers cannot be met, and you will need a buffer reduction to build on the parcel. The most common types of wetlands in Kitsap County are Category III wetlands with 110' buffer and 15' building setbacks and Cat. IV wetlands with 40' buffer and 15' building setback. The minimum buffer for single-family development is 30'.

Wetland buffers can be administratively reduced through a Critical Area Buffer Reduction Request with their building permit. The limit is generally a 25% reduction for either buffer averaging or administrative reduction. In some rare cases where the Cat. III or IV wetland has a habitat score of less than 5, you could average the buffer by up to 50%. Anything greater is a Critical Area Variance

Wetland reports are generally valid for five years. On request, a list of some of the qualified wetland specialists that work in our area may be provided.

    What are the stream setbacks?

 (KCC 19.300 and 19.700.720)

Type F streams (darker blue line in Parcel Search), have 150' buffers and additional 15' building setbacks, with 50' buffers and additional 15' building setbacks for the Type N streams (light blue line in Parcel Search). Many of the seasonal streams are not mapped, so you may need to pay attention to the topography (contours in Parcel Search) and surrounding area imagery for potential streams. If you are unsure of the location or disagree about the stream type, you will need to contact the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The local Habitat Biologist for your area can usually come out to your property to make these determinations. Alternatively, you may hire a qualified habitat biologist to make this determination. Please provide that confirmation with your permit submittal and indicate the correct location and buffer on your building site plan.

Stream buffer reductions (administrative or averaging) can be by up to 50% reduction for single-family development (25% for all others) when a Critical Area Buffer Reduction request and Habitat Management Plan (KCC 19.700.720) are provided with your permit application. Any greater reduction is a Critical Area Variance.

   Can I cut down a few trees on my property without a permit?

(KCC 19.100.130 and KCC 18.16)

The answer to this is not a simple yes or no. It will depend on multiple factors, including:

• Are all of the trees to be removed considered "danger trees" (located within a tree length and a half of a permanent, habitable structure)?

• Are any of the trees located within a critical area or buffer?

• Are any of the trees located within a vegetated buffer required as part of a recorded plat?

• Are you harvesting over 5,000 board feet of timber (approx. a log truck and a half)?

• Are you proposing to log for conversion to non-forestry uses on a parcel over 2 acres in size?

• Will you be doing any stump or brush removal?

Tree removal or clearing/grading activities should not be done before checking with DCD and will likely require a separate permit if you need to clear out the land before approval of an approved building and/or grading permit.

Please use this Tree Clearing Permit Selector to help determine which permit(s) will be required for your proposed activity.

    What does a mapped flood hazard area mean for my new or remodeled structure?

(Title 15 Flood Hazard Areas)

New or substantially improved structures (improvements greater than 50% of the market value of the structure) must be elevated 1' above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE).  Non-residential structures must be floodproofed.

    Can I have a small pasture on my property?

(KCC 19.150.28519.200.225(B)19.300.315(H))

The Critical Areas Ordinance (Title 19) recognizes existing and ongoing agriculture. New or expanded agriculture must either meet the critical area buffers or reductions allowed per code with a fence along the outer buffer edge, or provide a Farm Plan from the Kitsap Conservation District. Existing and ongoing agriculture is allowed to continue, PROVIDED it is adhering to best management practices, or is enrolled in a federally recognized conservation program, or the Kitsap County Open Space Taxation Program as a Farm and Agricultural Conservation Land. Agricultural structures that would otherwise be exempt from a Kitsap County Building Permit due to the size and use would NOT be exempt if proposed within a critical area or buffer that has not been approved by the County through the means noted above.