This post comes to us by way of Merri Ann Simonson of Caldwell Banker in Friday Harbor.
As you may be aware, the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) went into effect in March 2014. The Shoreline Master Program (SMP) has been in the update process for the last few years and is currently out for public comment until December 8, 2015. Then it will be sent on to the Department of Ecology for their comments and then back to our County for final revisions.
The Council is holding continued public hearings on December 2, 3 and 4th this week in Friday Harbor. They'll take comments on Lopez December 1st and on Orcas on December 8th.
It is expected that the SMP may be in effect as early as spring of 2016. Many of the proposed regulations as contained in the SMP were established in the CAO or at least precedence set.
It appears that the non-conforming regulation currently in effect under the WAC will be updated in the SMP. The existing formula that regulates how much you can increase the size of an existing non-conforming home on the waterfront or near a wetland is not included in the proposed SMP. In my opinion, the draft SMP language to address a non-conforming home remodel is more discretionary on the part of the Planners during their decision process.
The proposed language is more relaxed as there appears to be no limit on the size that the non-conforming home can be increased. However, you must propose mitigation measures to address any potential negative impacts to the critical areas. This requirement will have to be met by retaining professionals to prepare reports acceptable to the County
A legally non-conforming structure is defined as one that is out of compliance with the current regulations, but was in conformance at the time of its construction. For example, a home that is 35 feet from the shoreline versus the current setback as required by the CAO, is considered a non-conforming structure.
In order to expand an existing non-conforming structure under the current regulation and formula, you will need to obtain a building permit prior to the effective date of the SMP. A Residential Pre Approval is not binding and will not survive a regulation change.
If you are the owner of a non-conforming structure and are contemplating a remodel or expansion, you should review the existing regulation as well as proposed. I have attached links below; one to the current non-conforming regulation and one to the PROPOSED language in the SMP. If you believe that the proposed regulation will be more difficult to comply with than the existing, I would not delay your application for a permit.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW EXISTING WAC FOR NON-CONFORMING CONSTRUCTION
CLICK HERE TO VIEW PROPOSED SMP LANGUAGE
CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE COUNTY WEBSITE FOR ENTIRE SMP