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Find out what you can do with a property

Before you apply for a permit, you need to know two things about the property you're planning to use: its zoning and which (if any) critical or environmental areas are mapped on it. After that, there are important project consideratons you'll want to know about.  This page covers the property and project considerations, which together, determine what you can build on or do with a property, also called feasibility. Learn more about project feasibility

Step 1  Look Up Permitting Jurisdiction & Zoning

  • Open the Property Information Sheet
    • Go to the Property Information Sheet.
    • Enter the property address or parcel number to open the data sheet. (Enter the address, and the parcel number pops up.)
    • Print the data sheet or write down what you find as you go. You'll need the zoning details later in this step.

  • Look up Jurisdiction
    • Look for Permitting Jurisdiction - COUNTY. If the property jurisdiction is not COUNTY, we don't issue permits for it. We only issue permits for property located in unincorporated Thurston County.

  • Check Zoning 
    • Look for Jurisdiction of Influence (part of zoning despite the name). 
      • For county-permitted properties, it will be Same as Permitting Jurisdiction, OLYUGA, TUMUGA, LACUGA, or if there is any other UGA listed, use Same as Permitting Jurisdiction. (UGA is an Urban Growth Area located in unincorporated Thurston County.) 
    • Next look for Zoning which can be letters, numbers or words or a combination of any of those (Example: RRR 1/5, Rural Residential/Resource).

Step 2  See if Your Project is Allowed in the Property's Zone 

  • Identify your project type - What general project type do your plans fall under? The zoning code title lists allowable project types. Common project types are:
    • Residential - Building/remodeling house, family member unit, garage, barn, shed, shop, septic, accessory dwelling unit, etc. 
    • Non-Residential or Commercial - Building/remodeling an office building, apartment complex, warehouse, etc. 
    • Subdividing Land - Subdividing, consolidating or adjusting your boundary line. 
    • Tree Cutting - Cutting down trees, logging, forestry or converting a forested area to another use. (LINK TO TREE PAGE), 
    • Special Uses - Cell tower, mining, family day care, mobile home park, concert, wedding venue, special event, home-based business, etc.
    • Other - If you don't see your project type, keep going. The codes include uncommon project types not listed here. Or contact us.
  • Check the Zoning Code - Go to the county zoning code title that matches the property's jurisdiction of influence. 
      • For Same as Permitting Jurisdiction - go to Thurston County Code Title 20 
        • Scroll through Title 20 to find the Zoning that's listed on your property's data sheet. Each Zoning has its own chapter. 
        • Then see if your project type (what you want to build or do) is listed as a Primary Use, a Special Use or Prohibited in your property's zone.
        • If you didn't find your Zoning or project type, go to Chapter 20.54.065 and scroll down to check Table 1: Special Uses - Distribuion in County Zoning Districts.
      • For LACUGA go to Title 21 
        • Scroll through Title 21 find the zoning that matches Zoning on the property's data sheet. Each Zoning has its own chapter. 
        • If you don't find your Zoning or project type, check Special Uses in Chapter 21.66 to see if what you want to do is listed. 
      • For TUMUGA go Title 22
        • Scroll through Title 22 to find the zoning that matches Zoning on the property's data sheet. Each Zoning has its own chapter. 
        • If you don't find your Zoning or project type, check Special Uses in Special Uses in Chapter 22.56 to see if what you want to do is listed.
      • For OLYUGA - Title 23
        • For residential projects, go to Chapter 23.04 and scroll down to Table 4.01 Permitted and Special Uses to find Zoning and allowed uses. 
        • For non-residential / commercial projects, go to Chapter 23.06 and scroll down to Table 6.01 Permitted and Conditional ues to find Commercial Districts and conditionally-allowed uses. 

Step 3  Check for Critical and Environmental Areas

  • The best method: Go to County Maps and follow instructions for Property Critical & Environmental Areas Look Up to see if these areas are mapped on property. Regulated critical and environmental areas include: 
    • Aquifer recharge areas (land that drains into a drinking water acquifer), flood (all flood & high ground water areas), habitat conservation plan species (mazama pocket gopher, oregon spotted frog, oregon vesper sparrow, taylors checkerspot butterlfy) prairie plants and habitat, shorelines (all lakes, rivers, streams & Puget sound), geological hazards (bluffs, steep slopes), wetlands, other special or protected water and land areas, and/or any combination of these.  
  • Another method: You can find some critical and environmental areas listed on a property's data sheet. It's easier to find in the list, but the lists are often incomplete.
    • Look on the property information sheet for YES or Unknown next to wetlands, all flood-related listings, high groundwater, groundwater sensitive areas, all hazard listings, prairie soils, all Mazama pocket gopher info, Oregon vesper sparrow, Taylor's checkerspot butterfly, and Oregon spotted frog and Marine Riparian Review.

Step 4  Get Critical and/or Environmenal Area Reports

  • If the county's map shows critical or environmental areas on the property, you may need experts to prepare environmental reports.

    • Expert reports detail the exact size and location of these areas so you can plan your project to avoid them.*

    • These reports must be submitted with your permit application and site plan. Reports depend upon the critical / environmental areas you found mapped on your property or adjacent properties, and may include the types or reports listed below:

      • Wetland Delineation - if you find wetlands on or near your property.
      • GeoTech reports - if your property has bluffs and steep slopes.
      • Habitat Assessment - for development near shorelines, flood areas.
      • Other types of reports - depending upon the property.

    • Consider the county's Critical Areas Determination (CAD) application process as a first step. The CAD isn't a development permit, it's a process to help you identify where you can build to avoid impacts to critical areas and their buffers. Special reports may be requested through this process. 
    • *Expert report may not be needed IF you are able to avoid impacts to critical/environmental areas and buffers. 

​Step 5  Familiarize Yourself with the Project Considerations Below


Check Septic System & Wells or source of drinking water & sewage treatment


You May Need a Professionally-Designed Stormwater Drainage & Erosion Control Plan

  • Link to available details Thurston County Drainage Manual web page
  • Understanding the code The county gets 60+inches of rain per year. Development alters the natural flow and filtration of rainwater runoff (called stormwater in county code). That's why most building projects need a professionally-prepared drainage plan and drawings showing how runoff will be directed, collected or filtered through the ground (usually storm ponds, pipes & drains). 
  • If building a new house or adding any buildings You must have a drainage and erosion plans that meets standards in the 2022 Drainage Design & Erosion Control (DDEC) Manual (PDF).
  • Find checklists, standards information and other supporting forms on the 2022 DDEC supporting forms web page.
  • Stormwater regulations apply at the construction site, too, and inspectors do on-site inspections during construction. See what inspectors look for & how to prepare. 
  • Department in charge of this the Development Review in collaboration with the Stormwater Utility of the Public Works Department

Look up & plan for a property's access to county roads 

  • Link to available details  Grading, Road Access & Easements 
  • You need a permit to build a driveway and connect to an existing county road (called encroachment in county code).
  • You also need a permit to relocate an existing driveway.
  • Department in charge of this Development Review division of the Public Works department.

Check for Easements on the Property

  • See if there’s already an easement on a property (This process is administered by Thurston County Auditor’s Office).

For commercial projects, include fire safety requirements in your plan

  • Link to details  Fire Information
  • All new construction and interior remodels require carbon monoxide alarm & fire alarms for code compliance.  (WAC 51-51-0315).
  • The county fire marshal conducts yearly fire inspections of commercial buildings &rental properties to make sure they meet code.
  • Permits required for burning yard waste, but those permits don't come from us. Check with Olympic Region Clean Air Agency to get a burn permit.
  • Fire District - To see what fire district a property is located in, check the parcel info sheet (see Step 1 above). 

Check property boundaries, tax records & tax incentives, liens & deeds 

Property addressing, past permits & other general information

​Step 6  Prepare Your Application Packet


WEBSITE FOR INFORMATION ONLY. The descriptions, maps, links, and information on this website are for informational purposes only. Every property and project is unique. Maps may not accurately represent current ground conditions at a property now or at the time of application. Maps, regulatory descriptions, information, explanations suggested steps, etc. don't meet legal, engineering or survey standards. Consult with your own experts before making decisions.