State law defines critical areas
The City adopted a Critical Areas Ordinance in 2004, codified as Chapter 16.15 of the Mountlake Terrace Municipal Code (MTMC). The purpose of the critical areas regulations is to protect the functions and values of those areas at the local level. The City updated its Critical Areas regulation in 2018.
Why are critical areas important?
Critical areas perform a multitude of environmental functions that improve our water and air, protect property from damage, enhance
Critical Areas Checklists:
Critical Areas Checklist (PDF)
Critical Areas Reasonable Use Exception Regulations (MTMC 16.15.130) (PDF)
Critical Areas Reasonable Use Exception, General Requirements and Criteria (PDF)
Where are the critical areas located?
Critical areas are located throughout the City so the regulations apply to a large number of properties. Known critical areas in the City are mapped. The maps are updated periodically to reflect new information.
What do critical area regulations do?
The critical areas ordinance is a set of regulations to protect the functions and values of critical areas while also allowing for reasonable use of private property. Critical area regulations include requirements regarding buffers from streams and wetlands, critical wildlife habitat areas and steep slopes. Critical areas are to be avoided when at all possible. The regulations can restrict and may prohibit certain development or activities on a site due to its negative impact on one or more critical areas.
Generally speaking, no development activity may occur within a critical area or critical area buffer without a critical areas report being prepared and impacts of the development mitigated. Mitigation includes avoiding impacts, minimizing impacts, repairing, rehabilitating or restoring impacts, or replacing the critical area functions and values elsewhere.
What changes and updates will be mandated?
The state mandates include:
- a clear emphasis on the preservation and protection of anadromous fish habitat
- use of "Best Management Practices"
- consistency with some specific development regulation, and
- consistency with the City's Comprehensive Plan of 2015
Other updates consist of setting forth a clear process for when and what type of review is to occur for a development activity proposed near or in critical area, what information or special report the proponent is to provide, what procedural steps the proponent and staff are to follow in each situation, what the criteria are for staff to reach a decision, what the applicant needs to do to proceed with their development, adopt critical area map into regulations, imminent and non-imminent hazard trees, how to regulate isolated wetlands, require a permit, and make other changes that will improve the implementation of the regulations to protect both critical areas and property owner's rights.
What is a negative or positive impact
An impact to a critical area means the development or activity may or will reduce the biological, hydrological, and/or geological elements - the functions and values - of the underlying critical area system. An impact to a critical area is generally created by a "
A negative impact is when
A positive impact would be one that improves the condition or function of a critical area. For example, removing noxious weeds and replanting with native vegetation, stabilizing hillsides, removing debris from streams and wetlands, restoring degraded critical areas, and creating habitat for fish and wildlife.
Some activities have low impacts such as passive recreation, bird watching, removal of invasive species, and planting of native vegetation, maintenance
Other benefits of critical area regulations
Benefits to the City include protecting property owners from impacts to critical areas with negative outcomes, reduced costs of public infrastructure improvements, reduced maintenance costs of
Benefits to property owners may include protect property from damage, increased property value, ability to know what can or cannot be done in a critical area on their property, opportunities for recreation and enjoyment of open space, wildlife and clean air, reduced mortgage insurance, and ability to obtain loans backed by federally sponsored entities.