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Critical Area Regulations Update
The Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) mandates that cities and counties adopt policies and regulations to protect the functions and values of critical areas. The GMA requires that cities and counties include best available science (BAS) in the development of such policies and regulations, as well as those measures taken to protect or enhance anadromous fisheries. Inclusion of BAS in the development of locally appropriate policies and regulations must be balanced with the many other substantive goals and mandates of the GMA.

The City is now embarking on the task of updating its critical area regulations to comply with the requirement to periodically update its development standards.

Critical areas include the following:

Geologically hazardous areas - (Landslide hazard areas, erosion hazard areas, steep slopes, seismic hazard areas) are those areas that are susceptible to erosion, sliding, earthquake, or other geological events and are not suited to the siting of commercial, residential, or industrial development consistent with public health and safety concerns.

Frequently flooded areas - are areas that experience a general and/or temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of normally dry land areas from: (a) the overflow of inland or tidal waters; and/or (b) the unusual and rapid accumulation of runoff surface waters from any source.

Critical aquifer recharge areas - are areas with a critical recharging effect on aquifers used for potable water including areas where an aquifer that is a source of drinking water is vulnerable to contamination that would affect the potability of the water.

Wetlands - are defined as those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas. Wetlands do not include artificial wetlands intentionally created from non-wetland sites, including, but not limited to, irrigation and drainage ditches, grass-lined swales, canals, detention facilities, wastewater treatment facilities, farm ponds, and landscape amenities, or those wetlands created after July 1, 1990, that were unintentionally created as a result of the construction of a road, street, or highway. Wetlands may include those artificial wetlands intentionally created from non-wetland areas to mitigate the conversion of wetlands.

Fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas - (streams, areas associated with threatened or endangered species, see BMC 19.40.380 for complete list)
  • Areas where endangered, threatened, or sensitive species have a primary association
  • Habitats and species of local importance
  • Naturally occurring ponds and lakes less than 20 acres in size that provide fish or wildlife habitat
  • Waters of the State
  • Lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers stocked with game fish by a governmental or tribal agency
  • State natural area preserves, natural resources conservation areas, and State wildlife areas.

The City will be updating the critical area regulations to comply with the state requirements. The critical areas chapter was last updated in 2003 and therefore this effort will be focused on those amendments necessary to be in compliance with state law.

Update Schedule
Planning Commission (meetings begin at 7 p.m. in the City Hall/Library Multipurpose Room)


  • May 13th    Public Hearing

                             Hearing Notice

  • May 27th    Planning Commission Recommendation    

City Council (meetings begin at 7 p.m. in the City Hall/Library Multipurpose Room)
  • June 1st    Presentation of Planning Commission Recommendation
  • June 15th  Adoption of Code Amendments

Staff contact:    David Johanson, AICP, Senior Planner
                         (206) 248-5522

Reference Documents
BMC Chapter 19.40, Critical Areas (existing regulations)

Best Available Science Review
            Addendum to Appendix C

Critical Areas Ordinance Gap Analysis

Critical Areas Map


            Staff presentation March 23, 2015
            Consultant presentation March 23, 2015
            Consultant presentation April 22, 2015

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400 SW 152nd St, Suite 300  /  Burien, WA 98166  /  Ph: (206) 241-4647  /  Fax: (206) 248-5539
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