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14.255.120 Reasonable Use Variances.
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A. Purpose. The standards and requirements of the Critical Areas Code are not intended and shall not be construed or applied in a manner to deny all reasonable use of private property. The purpose of a reasonable use variance is to ensure no private property owner is denied all reasonable use of their property. If an applicant demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Hearing Examiner that strict application of these standards would deny all reasonable use of a property, development may be permitted subject to appropriate conditions. A reasonable use variance is intended as a “last resort” when no plan and/or mitigation can meet the requirements of this chapter and allow the applicant a reasonable viable use of his or her property.

B. Approval Criteria. Reasonable use variances require all of the following criteria be met:

1. That no reasonable use with less impact on the critical area and/or the buffer is feasible and reasonable;

2. There is no feasible and reasonable on-site alternative to the proposed activity or use that would allow reasonable use with less adverse impacts to the critical area and/or buffer. Feasible on-site alternatives shall include, but are not limited to:

a. Relocation of proposed structures;

b. Reduction in proposed density or building size;

c. Phasing of project implementation;

d. Change in timing of activities; and

e. Revision of road or parcel layout or related site planning considerations;

3. There are no practical alternatives available to the applicant for development of the property. An alternative is practical if the property or site is available and the project is capable of being done after taking into consideration existing technology, infrastructure, and logistics in light of the overall project purpose;

4. The proposed activity or use will be mitigated to the maximum practical extent and result in the minimum feasible alteration or impairment of functional characteristics of the site, including contours, vegetation and habitat, ground water, surface water, and hydrologic conditions, and consideration has been given to best available science;

5. There will be no material damage to nearby public or private property and no material threat to the health or safety of people on or off the property;

6. The proposed activity or use complies with all local, state, and federal laws and the applicant has applied for or obtained all required state and federal approvals; and

7. The inability to derive reasonable use is not the result of actions by the applicant in segregating or dividing the property.

C. If a reasonable use variance results in a loss in nondegraded buffer area:

1. The remaining buffer shall be enhanced, in a manner proposed by a qualified wetland professional and approved by the Planning Director, to reduce significant adverse impacts to the critical area; or

2. Off-site buffer mitigation shall be required to compensate at a one-to-one (1:1) ratio for the area of buffer reduced. Off-site mitigation may be:

a. Located on adjacent parcels, provided the mitigation area is placed within a native growth protection area tract or a conservation easement; or

b. Created by purchasing credits from an off-site wetland mitigation bank certified by the state of Washington or other appropriate agency.

D. Allowed Reductions for Single-Family Residential Reasonable Use Lots. Reasonable use variances shall allow the development of a modest (in terms of floor area, footprint size, height, and exterior amenities) single-family residential home located on a lot that is partially or completely within a critical area or its buffer.

1. Building setbacks, pursuant to Chapter 14.210 SMC, Dimensional and Other Requirements, may be reduced by up to fifty (50) percent where the applicant demonstrates to the City that the development cannot meet the City’s code requirements without encroaching onto a critical area or its buffer.

2. Development on single-family residential reasonable use lots shall:

a. Leave at least seventy (70) percent of the lot undisturbed to protect the critical areas.

b. Have a maximum building footprint of one thousand five hundred (1,500) square feet.

c. Include the least amount of impervious area necessary to provide vehicular access provided it provides the shortest and most direct access to the house with minimal encroachment or impact into the critical area or buffer. When determining if the access has minimum encroachment or impact on a critical area the use of bridges and open bottom culverts shall be considered minimal impact.

d. Include yard areas only if they do not encroach into the critical area or buffer and do not require a buffer width reduction to accommodate the yard area.

E. Allowed Reductions for Multifamily, Commercial, and Industrial Reasonable Use Lots. Reasonable use variances shall allow for the economically viable development of lots with a land use designation of multifamily residential, commercial or industrial on a lot that is partially or completely within a critical area or its buffer.

1. Building setbacks, pursuant to Chapter 14.210 SMC, Dimensional and Other Requirements, may be reduced by up to fifty (50) percent where the applicant demonstrates to the City that the development cannot meet the City’s code requirements without encroaching onto a critical area or its buffer.

2. For commercial and industrial projects, the number of required parking stalls may be reduced by up to forty (40) percent if the applicant can demonstrate that the reduction would not negatively affect the business or create spillover parking onto City streets.

F. Reasonable use lots shall not be subdivided unless there is sufficient area to construct all buildings, driveways, landscaping, and yard areas without intruding on the critical area or buffer. (Ord. 2368, 2019)

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