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Thurston County, Washington

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Community Planning and Economic Development

Non-conforming Projects in Critical Areas

Project Overview

The Thurston County Community Planning Division is proposing changes to language in the Critical Areas Ordinance to update application processes for existing nonconforming uses, structures, and lots.

Proposed amendments only apply to the review process for small-scale projects, and will not change underlying critical areas protections. These amendments would apply to all properties within unincorporated Thurston County and urban growth areas. The project is county-initiated and would amend Chapters 24.03 and 24.50 of the Critical Areas Ordinance to expand administrative review of small-scale projects associated with nonconforming uses, structures and lots that have minimal impacts to critical areas. The project is listed as A-27 on the 2022-2023 Official Development Code Docket. This proposed amendment relates to Strategic Initiative #7: "Balance development with the preservation of the County's rural character, natural areas, and open spaces." 


Impacted Applicants

Small-scale project applicants whose existing legal, nonconforming use, structure, or lot lies in a critical area or buffer within Thurston County’s jurisdiction. 

Streamlines and lowers the cost of the permit review process by allowing some applications to be reviewed by knowledgeable staff, instead of going to the Hearings Examiner. Small scale projects subject to this would include:

  • Alterations within the existing structure’s footprint
  • Additions to the landward side of a single-family home, only when the affected buffer area is isolated and no longer protects the critical area
  • Projects with 500 square feet or less of impervious surfaces in wetland buffers of at least 100ft.

We welcome your feedback on this project. If you would like to participate in the public process, please click Comment on the Non-conforming Projects in Critical Areas Code Amendment to provide comments on this proposal. You may also contact project manager, Ashley Arai at 360-280-9298 if you have any questions or would like additional information. We look forward to hearing from you!

This timeline is approximate and subject to change. Last updated October 26, 2022.