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In areas classified as urban and suburban in the Cowlitz County Comprehensive Plan, one attached ADU and one detached ADU may be established as an accessory to a single-family dwelling per lot. In all other Comprehensive Plan classifications, only one ADU may be established as an accessory to a single-family dwelling per lot.
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Please speak to the Planning Department first, our Harvest Permits can be processed during the Planning stage, potentially saving valuable time and money.
Specialists from Building, Planning, and Environmental Health are available to help you determine what permitting will be required for your project or if you may have an exemption.
Electrical Permits can be obtained through Labor & Industries (L&I). Our local office is located at 711 Vine St, Kelso, WA 98626. You can get more information by calling them at (360) 575-6900 or visiting their website at lni.wa.gov, clicking on Licensing & Permits, then locate the type of permit you are searching for.
If you intend to harvest more than 5,000 board feet of timber or remove timber from the lot, or sell any portion of harvested timber, a Harvest permit is required. You can obtain a harvest permit through the Department of Natural Resources or the County. If you would like to harvest timber from your property with the intent to replant trees and without any intent to build in the next 6 years, contact the Department of Natural Resources for a harvest permit. If you plan to not replant trees and/or build within the next 6 years, contact Cowlitz County.
Subdivisions can generally be grouped into two categories: administrative subdivisions and subdivisions requiring public hearings. Administrative subdivisions do not require public hearings or public notification, and are generally administered by county staff. Conditions placed on the proposal are drawn from relevant county codes.
Subdivisions requiring public hearings also involve staff recommendations, but ultimately the conditions placed on the subdivision are approved by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). The process includes staff analysis of relevant county codes, SEPA review, a public hearing, and recommendations from the Planning Commission before it is sent to the BOCC.
Administrative subdivisions are the most common form of subdivision in our County, and include:
Short Subdivisions - The division or redivision of land into 4 or fewer parcels, any of which is less than 5 acres in size (CCC 18.34).
Large Lot Subdivisions - A division or redivision of land where each lot is greater than 5 acres in size and any one is less than 10 acres in size (CCC 18.38).
Subdivisions requiring public hearings are generally known as “Long Plats.” Though less common, they typically involve significantly more lots than administrative subdivisions. They include:
Rural Subdivisions - Divisions of land containing 5 or more proposed lots, and are located in an area designated “Rural” by the Comprehensive Plan and/or Land Use Ordinance (CCC 18.50).
Urban Subdivision - Divisions of land containing 5 or more proposed lots, and are located in an area designated “Urban” by the Comprehensive Plan and/or Land Use Ordinance (CCC 18.32).
Planned Unit Developments - A type of subdivision characterized by a unified site design, clustering of buildings, common open space, density increases, and a mix of land uses and building types (CCC 18.30).
Designated Forest Land (DFL) is a tax classification, not a timber harvest permit. Removing acreage from DFL classification does not remove previous harvest permit conditions, or eliminate future harvest permit conditions. Planning Clearance review from Building and Planning is required prior to the preparation of a building site. A planner will determine if timber harvest permitting is required during Planning Clearance review.
A development moratorium is imposed on land harvested with DNR permits for 6 years after permit issuance. To remove this moratorium there are two options, a County: 1. Moratorium Lift or 2. One Acre Waiver of Moratorium.
A Moratorium lift removes the entire parcel from development moratorium. Conditions of the Class III permit no longer apply to the project.
A One Acre Waiver of Moratorium removes 1 acre of land from development moratorium. The entirety of proposed land developed must be contained within 1 acre or less, including driveways, wells, outbuildings, and septic drain fields. All conditions of the DNR permit must be met prior to County approval.
A detached or attached second dwelling similar in appearance to the primary dwelling. Examples include: a Mother in-law style dwelling above garage, an outbuilding with a small dwelling built in for rental income, or a house addition for an aging family friend. The ADU may be a manufactured or modular home. ADU’s require standard residential permitting.
An ADU is a great option. ADU’s can be up to 1,200 square feet of livable space.
Yes. There are no requirements for owner occupancy or tenant occupancy.
One space per ADU.
This depends on the capacity of your existing well and septic system.
Contact the Environmental Health Unit concerning septic or well systems at email@example.com or (360) 414-5599 Press 5, Option 2.
Visit the Environmental Health Unit website.
The Environmental Health Unit can provide a list of Septic Designers with experience in Cowlitz County.
To protect ecologically important areas associated with larger streams, lakes, and rivers, of the State Shorelines Act designated shorelines of statewide significance. These areas are regulated by the locally adopted Cowlitz County Shoreline Master Program. Development within designated shorelines may be subject to additional permitting requirements. Contact an Environmental Planner for more information.
For complex projects within the shoreline designation the Building and Planning department offers free onsite Staff Consultations on the last Thursday of every month. For more information, please contact Peyton Murphy, Environmental Planner at firstname.lastname@example.org
DFL stands for Designated Forest Land. This is a tax classification, not a zoning designation. All questions regarding DFL can be directed to the Assessor’s Office. More information on DFL can be found HERE.
Use the Online EPIC maps to find your lot and determine Zoning and Comprehensive Plan designation. You may need to toggle the layers and adjust the zoom.
Most of the unincorporated land in Cowlitz County carries the zoning classification of ‘Unzoned’ or UZ. UZ areas are compatible with a wide range of land uses.
In most cases, yes.
If you are in a UZ zoning designation, the minimum area required for subdivision is determined by the 2017 Comprehensive Plan, and varies depending on the area and access to sewer and public water. Use the 2017 Comprehensive Plan to determine the minimum acreage in your area. If you are in any other zoning designation, look to the zoning code for your minimum lot size.
Yes. A Staff Consultation in our office or virtually is a great first step. To provide the most valuable information, a site plan and narrative description are necessary. See our Staff Consultation Page for more details.
Cowlitz County does not fully plan under GMA; because of this we cannot charge impact fees.
Planning Clearance is the first required permit.
Apply for a staff consultation to get the ball rolling. During this meeting staff can review your preliminary proposal to ensure you have the necessary information to continue forward.
If the project cannot avoid the stream or river buffers, a biologist’s approval through a Habitat Assessment may be necessary. Speak to one of our Environmental Planners for more details.
If the project cannot avoid the mapped Geohazard, an assessment from a Geological Engineer may be necessary. Speak to one of our Environmental Planners for more details.
If your project is in the Unincorporated Urbanized Area stormwater review will be necessary.
If your project is in a Rural Area, stormwater review could be necessary for larger developments.
The soils may be susceptible to erosion. Talk to a planner to learn if an assessment from Geotechnical Engineer is necessary to develop the property.
Mobile Home Alteration Permits can be obtained through Labor & Industries (L&I). Our local office is located at 711 Vine St, Kelso, WA 98626. You can get more information by calling them at (360) 575-6900 or visiting their website at lni.wa.gov, clicking on Licensing & Permits, then locate the type of permit you are searching for.