What are critical areas?
Critical areas are wetlands, aquifer recharge areas, frequently flooded areas, geologically hazardous areas, and fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas. The County is required to regulate development in these areas because of the hazard they may represent to public health or because of their natural functions and public value.  The first regulations of critical areas were adopted by Mason County Commission in 1993 as the Mason County Resource Ordinance Chapter 8.52 of the Mason County Code.  This Ordinance has been reviewed and amended over time to remain current and comply with state and federal requirements.
How do I know if I have critical areas on my property?

Many critical areas throughout Mason County have been mapped but most remain unidentified. In order to identify unmapped critical areas, the County requires a Critical Areas Review to be completed with new development proposals on a site by site basis.  Critical Area Reviews may trigger the need for a Mason County Environmental PermitContact your Area Planner to schedule a review, visit us for walk-in service Monday – Friday 8am to 4:30pm:

615 W Alder St
Shelton, WA 98584

Or call (360) 427-9670 ext. 352

How do I get information on FEMA floodplain and flood elevation certificates?

FEMA provides an easy to use website to help answer your questions about the FEMA floodplain information

You can find the Flood Elevation Certificate information

What are Landslide Hazard Areas?
Landslide Hazard Areas are defined by Mason County Code Section 8.52.140 to include areas susceptible to landslides or the effects of erosion, sliding, earthquake, or other geologic events. They pose a threat to the health and safety of citizens where incompatible residential, commercial, industrial or infrastructure development is sited in areas of a hazard.  Potential Landslide Hazard Areas generally have a threshold of 15% or greater slope.
Can I build on property that has critical areas?

Yes, provided the proposed development can avoid critical areas and associated buffers or if the impacts to the critical areas can be adequately mitigated.  In some cases, a Mason County Environmental Permit may be required.

The County’s Critical Areas regulations may apply if the project area or portion of the property to be developed is in or near a critical area. Planning Services will conduct a Critical Area Review and may require a Mason County Environmental Permit when critical areas are identified within about 300 feet of the proposed development. The 300-foot measurement is not necessarily a development restriction; it is there to set a uniform standard for review purposes. 

As part of the Critical Area Review, staff will complete a map review and site visit to determine if the project area includes indications of critical areas. If critical areas indicators are present, the applicant may choose to revise the site plan so the project area excludes critical areas and associated buffers. If the applicant wants to proceed with the original development, a Mason County Environmental Permit must be prepared.

What types of development must comply with the County Critical Areas regulations?

If the development is not specifically allowed without standard review under Mason County Code Section 8.52.200, the proposed development must be reviewed for compliance with the Critical Areas Ordinance.  For example, single family building permits (including additions that expand the foot print, detached buildings, etc.), fill and grade permits, land divisions, special use permits, shoreline permits, commercial developments, conversion forest practices and conversion option harvest plans, and septic permits are regulated under the Critical Areas Ordinance. Even if there is no permit requirement, any proposed alteration of a critical area is subject to review (See Mason County Code Section 8.52.040)

Activities like site investigation surveys and subsurface explorations do not require Critical Areas Review. In these cases; however, the activities must minimize the critical area impacts and the disturbed areas must be immediately restored.

Any adverse impact to a critical area or associated buffer area resulting from the activity shall be restored to the maximum extent possible.

Where can I find a qualified professional to complete a site assessment and mitigation plan?

The County has put together a list of companies that have sent the County a statement of qualifications. This list is for informational purposes only and is not a list of County approved critical area professionals. Another good place to start looking would be the yellow pages of the phone book under headings such as engineering, surveying, environmental, and geologists. Each type of critical area assessment requires certain professional qualifications. These qualifications are specified in Mason County Code Section 8.52.030, Definitions.

Will it take longer to get my permit if I have a Critical Area on my property?

If standard review of a proposed activity is required, a site visit will take place. County staff will evaluate the area within 300 feet of the proposed development activity for the presence of critical areas indicators. If the site visit confirms critical area indicators are present, the applicant will be notified that a critical areas site assessment is required to proceed with critical areas review of the proposal. However, other options may be available under proceeding with the permit application.

Critical Areas Review by Mason County Planning Services is one of several steps that need to be completed prior to applying for a building permit.  Since the Critical Area Review will be done before submittal, it shouldn’t change the timeline of the building permit review unless the building permit proposal is not consistent with the Critical Areas approval.  In this case, a Mason County Environmental Permit would be required.

If I am not planning to build within a critical area or its buffer, do I need to have a mitigation plan prepared?

No. Mason County does not require a mitigation plan if the project area is located outside critical areas and associated buffer areas. This means once the critical areas have been identified and classified, and their standard buffers established, no additional mitigation is required. The exception to this would be if part of the development activity had unique circumstances (e.g. highly sensitive habitat) associated with the critical area that required additional protection. If this were the case, it would be up to the County not the landowner to demonstrate why additional mitigation is required.  However, even if no mitigation is required, Mason County retains the site plan.