Development Code Updates
The City of Edmonds is undertaking a number of key updates to its development codes. Choose the subject you are interested in from the choices below.

Community Development Code

Critical Areas Regulations Update

March 15, 2016 Public Hearing

At the last Council meeting of 2015, the City Council proposed a number of amendments to the draft critical area regulations which were adopted in Ordinance No. 4017 and subsequently vetoed by the Mayor. Following reconsideration of the Mayor’s veto, the Council discussed returning to review the version of the critical area regulations that were considered at the December 15, 2015 meeting which are linked below.

The City Council will hold another public hearing on March 15, 2016 to consider proposed amendments to the draft critical area regulations linked above.   The proposed amendments are summarized below:

1.  ECDC 23.40.220.C.4 – Physically Separated/Functionally Isolated Buffers
     a. Require determination of physically separated/functionally isolated buffers to be made by a qualified critical area consultant.
     b.  Rename provision to physically separated/potentially isolated or “interrupted buffer

2.  Council Review/Critical Area Decision Processes
     a.  Include the City Council in the decision making process for certain critical area decisions such as physically separated/functionally isolated buffers, restoration projects, and exemptions.
     b.  Consider adding a decision matrix or some threshold for which projects would include the City Council in the decision making process      
     c.  Consider amending the decision process for certain types of critical area decisions (i.e. Type I, Type II, Type III or other new process type.

3.  ECDC 23.40.220.C.7.b.iv – Hazard Tree Replacement
     Change the required diameter of deciduous replacement trees from one inch dbh to one to two inches dbh

4.  Definitions
     a.  ECDC 23.40.320 – Normal Maintenance of Vegetation Definition
          Change the diameter of trees from three to four inches dbh which may be removed as “normal maintenance.”
     b.  Add definition for Council to reflect Edmonds City Council
     c.  Add definition for Best Available Science
     d.  Move definitions from Part VI to ECDC 23.40.010 after Purpose section.

5.  ECDC 23.90.040.C – Retention of Vegetation on Subdividable and Undeveloped Parcels
     a.  Include RS-8 and RS-10 in addition to RS-12 and RS-20 zones to where this provision would apply
     b.  Consider requiring a different percentage of coverage for the RS-8 and RS-10 (existing is 30% for RS-12 and RS-20 zones).
     c.  Change “…native trees over 10 inches in dbh make up more than 70 percent of the canopy cover” to “…native trees over 6 inches in dbh make up more than 40 percent of the canopy cover.”

6. Frequently Flood Area Amendments in ECDC 19.00.025 and ECDC 21.40.030
    Do not consider the frequently flooded amendments in the building code at ECDC 19.00.025 and definition of height at ECDC 21.40.030 with the critical areas update.

7. Council Status Reports
    Require the administration to provide the City Council with periodic reports on implementation of the critical area regulations.

8.  Appendices
     a.  Make new Appendix A formally adopting critical areas maps
     b.  Make new Appendix B with an inventory of all critical areas within the City of Edmonds including buffer widths

9.  ECDC 23.40.215 – Restoration Projects
    Modify the Restoration projects provision to remove specific buffer reduction allowances, and have project proponents propose buffer width necessary to ensure success of the proposed project.

10.  ECDC 23.40.040.C – Areas subject to the provision of the CAO
      Replace this section to refer to new appendices if appendices are adopted

11.  ECDC 23.40.040.D – Areas Adjacent to Critical Areas
      Keep only first sentence and delete the remainder of the section

12.  ECDC 23.40.090.D – Minimum Report Contents
      Require critical area reports to identify the location of all native and non-native vegetation of 6 inch dbh or larger.

Note:  The following is a list of ideas compiled by a councilmember gleaned from comments submitted on the critical area regulations update. The items with asterisks (*) are currently present in the draft critical area regulations.
      a.  Increase the tree removal threshold from 3” dbh to 6” dbh.
      b.  Allow removal of inappropriate trees such as alders, cottonwoods and willows in critical areas.
      c.  Compensatory mitigation should apply to streams in addition to wetlands.*
      d.  Provide for 100% of buffer, where available for enhancement projects.
      e.  Identify biodiversity areas and corridors.
      f.  The footprint of development should include compacted gravel areas.*
      g.  There are Inconsistencies between allowed activities in Wetlands and allowed activities in Critical Areas.
      h.  Add presence of railroad tracks as an example of physically separated but functional isolated conditions.
       i.  Allow healthy trees to be removed from critical areas on private land.



All cities and counties in Washington State are required to adopt critical areas regulations by the Growth Management Act (GMA). As defined by the GMA, "critical areas" include the following areas and ecosystems: (a) wetlands; (b)areas with a critical recharging effect on aquifers used for potable water; (c) fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas; (d) frequently flooded areas; and (e) geologically hazardous areas. [RCW 36.70A.030(5)]

Counties and cities are required to include Best Available Science (BAS) in developing policies and development regulations to protect the functions and values of critical areas. All jurisdictions are required to review, evaluate, and, if necessary, revise their critical areas ordinances according to an update schedule. The City of Edmonds critical area ordinance (CAO) update is due in 2015. This is the first comprehensive review and update of the regulations and science since the current version of the City's critical area regulations became effective in 2005.  Below are links to the 2004 Best Available Science report and 2015 Addendum prepared in association with the current CAO update.

Draft Critical Area Regulations

The City's existing critical area regulations are largely compliant with Best Available Science; however, a few sections were indentified for updating.  Some of the main areas identified for updating are:

  1. Updating the City's wetland regulations (ECDC 23.50) to be consistent with Department of Ecology's Guidance for Small Cities (Ecology Publication #10-06-002)
  2. Updating the geologically hazardous provisions.
    1. Revising how landslide hazard areas are defined (ECDC 23.80.020).
    2. Updating geotechnical report requirements (ECDC 23.80.050).
    3. Setbacks and buffers from landslide hazard areas are to be determined by a geotechnical report rather than having a standardized setback and buffer (ECDC 23.80.070).
  3. A new provision in the allowed activities section regarding development within physically separated and functionally isolated stream or wetland buffers (ECDC 23.40.220.C.4).
  4. Provisions for development within the previously developed footprint (Wetlands: ECDC 23.50.040.I; Streams: ECDC 23.90.040.D.5).
  5. Changes to the Native Vegetation requirement on RS-12 and RS-20 zoned lots providing better definition to the type of habitat identified for retention (ECDC 23.90.040.C).
  6. Changes to the Building Code (ECDC 19.00.025.Q) requiring buildings within the Coastal Flood Hazard Zones to be constructed two feet above the base flood elevation (100-year flood elevation) and an associated change to the definition of height in ECDC 21.40.030 noting the allowable height for structures within the Coastal Flood Harzard Zones is measured from two feet above base flood elevation. 
  7. A new section has been proposed in Section ECDC 23.40.215 to grant releif for restoration projects that are not required as mitigation for a development proposal.  The proposed relief is a reduction of the expanded buffer resulting from the restoration projeect in the amount equal to 75% of the expanded buffer, or the restoration project proponent may request the expanded buffer be reduced to a minimum of 50% of the expanded buffer if certain criteria apply.

The most recent version of the draft critical area regulations (Chapters 23.10 - 23.90 ECDC) are available at this link.  Associated recommended code changes to the builidng code (Title 19 ECDC) and definitions (Title 21 ECDC) related to frequently flooded areas are available at this link.  A Best Available Science Review and Gap Analysis Matrix of the proposed changes to the critical area regulations is availabe at this link

Planning Board Review

The Planning Board reviewed the critical area regulations update over the course of five Planning Board meetings and forwarded a recommendation to the City Council follwing the July 22, 2015 Planning Bord meeting.  Below are links to the Planning Board agenda items were critical areas were discussed which contain staff memorandums and video of the Planning Board meeting. 

March 25, 2015      Agenda Item       Minutes            
April 22, 2015    Agenda Item     Minutes    Video
June 10, 2015 Agenda Item     Minutes   Video
July 8, 2015 Agenda Item     Minutes   Video
July 22, 2015 Agenda Item     Minutes   Video

City Council Review

The City Council began review of the the Planning Board's recommendation on the draft critical area regulations in September 2015.  Below are links to the City Council agenda items were critical areas were discussed which contain staff memorandums and video of the Council meeting.  Minutes will be provided when they become available. 

September 8, 2015      Agenda Item        Minutes      Video
September 22, 2015        Agenda Item     Minutes     Video
October 6, 2015      Agenda Item     Minutes     Video
November 2, 2015      Agenda Item     Minutes     Video
December 15, 2015   Agenda Item     Minutes   Video
January 26, 2016   Agenda Item     Minutes   Video
February 2, 2016   Agenda Item     Minutes   Video
February 23, 2016   Agenda Item     Minutes Pending   Video