Planning Clearance & Regulations

In 1961, the Cowlitz County Board of County Commissioners elected to operate under the authority of the State’s Planning Enabling Act (Chapter 36.70 RCW).

RCW 36.70.010 - The purpose and intent of this chapter is to provide the authority for, and the procedures to be followed in, guiding and regulating the physical development of a county or region through correlating both public and private projects and coordinating their execution with respect to all matters utilized in developing and servicing land, all to the end of assuring the highest standards of environment for living, and the operation of commerce, industry, agriculture and recreation, and assuring maximum economies and conserving the highest degree of public health, safety, morals and welfare.

The Planning Division’s first priority is to provide efficient review of development applications and high quality customer service. Our basic function is to administer land use and environmental regulations. This is accomplished through review of proposed development activities for compliance with County regulations, such as the Comprehensive Plan, Shoreline Master Program, Critical Areas Ordinance, and Land Use Ordinance, in conjunction with state and federal requirements, such as the State Environmental Policy Act. We work closely with the Building Division and Environmental Health Unit, as well as many other government agencies, to review all development activity proposed in unincorporated Cowlitz County.

In order to meet requirements imposed by the State, and address community needs, the Planning Division is also often tasked with revising and developing new land use and environmental codes and policies. The Division often works with special committees, the Cowlitz County Planning Commission, and an independent Hearing Examiner.

Planning Application Packets are available online but are for personal use only. County staff are available to answer questions and provide information on the planning process.  You can now apply directly online using our new online permit system.  Paper application packets will no longer be accepted.  Please register with our online permitting system, Accela.

Planning Clearance is the County’s process for reviewing a proposed project for compliance with all applicable Land Use and Environmental regulations. All parcels proposed for development must have Planning Clearance review completed in advance of other permits.


On July 19, 2017 Cowlitz County updated it’s Comprehensive Plan land use designations county-wide, which includes determination for minimum lot sizes outside of the zoned areas of the County.  Until the EPIC program is updated, it will not return the correct comprehensive plan designation; please contact our office and we make sure you get the most current comprehensive plan information. We are working hard to make sure these changes are reflected in the EPIC program. Thank you for your patience!

EPIC Map  Review your parcel online using the County’s EPIC (Environmental Planning Internet Clearance) mapping tool.

Planning Clearance Application Form  - Please note that this is for personal use only.  To apply for a Planning Clearance, please use our online permit system.  Your first step in applying is to register with our new system.  Please click the following link to begin your registration:  Accela. 

Links to pages:

Comprehensive Plan

Critical Areas

Recreational Marijuana

Shoreline Master Program

State Environmental Policy Act