Shoreline Variance Permit

What is the purpose of this permit?
To regulate developments in and uses of shoreline water bodies and associated upland areas to protect human health and the natural environment. Each local government has development regulations in its shoreline master program (SMP). Each SMP contains numerical development standards (for example, height limit, setback distance, dock length, etc.). A person may request a variance from those numerical standards for their proposed development.

For more information about the Shoreline Management Act, go to the links below.
Who issues this permit?
Local Government - City or County
What activities require this permit?
These are determined by the local government as specified in its SMP.
How much will this permit cost?
The fee is established by each local government. Ecology does not charge a fee.
Do I need to include anything with my application?
This is established by each local government. The minimum required information is listed in WAC 173-27-180. Contact your local government for an application form.
Is the decision on my permit dependent on anything besides the information in my application?
When making the decision on your permit, Ecology will consider the applicable laws and rules, the contents of your application, and the background environmental conditions.
  • Variance applications are reviewed against criteria in the SMP and state criteria in WAC 173-27-170.
  • Compliance with the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) may be required.
How long will it take to review my application?
Local permit process time is determined by the local government. Ecology's decision will be issued within 30 calendar days of receiving a complete permit package from the local government.
Where do I submit my application?
The county or city where the proposed project will take place.
View the schematic
How long is my permit valid?
This is determined by local government in accordance with RCW 90.58.143. Typically, construction must begin within two years and must conclude within five years of receiving the permit.
What is the appeal process for the permit?
Decisions granting, denying, or rescinding a shoreline substantial development permit, or denial of a shoreline conditional use or variance permit, can be appealed. “Date of receipt” is defined in RCW 43.21B.001(2). The appeal process is governed by Chapters 43.21B and 90.58 RCW, and Chapter 461-08 WAC. Get more information on the Shorelines Hearings Board web page.
Related Entries:
Notes / Comments:
The local government (city or county) issues the initial decision on the variance. The local government then sends the permit package to Ecology. Ecology makes the final decision on the variance.
Legal Authority:
Local Government - City or County
Planning Departments
For assistance contact 1-800-917-0043 (Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance)
Triggering Questions:
  • Is the project or activity within 200 feet landward of the ordinary high water mark?
  • Is the project or activity in a water body within city or county boundaries?
  • Will you be doing any development within the 100-year floodplain?
* Permit information last updated 8/14/2023