Reforming Ground Disturbance Provisions


On August 17, 2018, Snohomish County Planning and Development Services (PDS) released draft code language to reform ground disturbance provisions under Chapter 30.63B SCC. The draft code changes primarily pertain to grading within two feet of exterior property lines. Changes would provide additional flexibility for such grading activities if detailed engineering information and recommendations are provided to PDS. As part of the information, an applicant would need to ensure safety and protection of adjoining properties during and after construction. Changes would also include corrections to maximum slope standards and citations to the International Building Code.  

Comment on the draft code language is open through the end of Friday, August 31, 2018. If you have any feedback, please contact the project manager, Stephen Fesler (see contact information to the right). Following the comment period, PDS will review comments received and consider them as part of a draft proposal to be transmitted to the Snohomish County Planning Commission. PDS has tentatively identified September 25, 2018 as a potential date to brief the Planning Commission on the draft proposal.

Project Purpose

PDS is reviewing issues relating to ground disturbance provisions within two feet of exterior property lines for development activities in unincorporated Snohomish County. The purpose of the project is to draft code amendments that would reform ground disturbance provisions to promote fairness while safeguarding health and safety.


The code amendment project is primarily focused on provisions under Chapter 30.63B SCC that pertain to standard setbacks for grading activities (i.e., cuts and fills). Specifically, this project is concerned with regulations under SCC 30.63B.130 that establish several requirements for grading activities. 

SCC 30.63B.130 generally limits grading within two feet of abutting property lines, except in certain circumstances. In order to reduce the standard setback for grading, an applicant must satisfy the requirements under SCC 30.63B.130(4) which stipulate that: 

  1. The applicant obtains a construction easement, written agreement, or authorization letter by the abutting property owner(s) to reduce the standard setback for ground disturbance; and
  2. The applicant produces a survey by a professional land surveyor licensed in Washington State that ensures compliance with construction and land disturbing activity site plans prior to construction of cut, fill, rockery, or a retaining wall proposed within six inches of a property line. 

The provisions under SCC 30.63B.130 also establish maximum grade (i.e., slope) changes allowed through grading activities, whether by filling or excavating land. These provisions are not under review as part of this code development process.

PDS has met with stakeholders to better understand concerns and issues with the existing provisions and how the County could address them through code amendments. PDS is now in the process of evaluating appropriate policy options.

Throughout the code development process, PDS will solicit public feedback on any draft changes. Comments may be sent to the project manager, Stephen Fesler (see contact information to the right), at any time during the process.

Project Contact

Stephen Fesler, Senior Planner
Email Stephen Ffesler

Project Schedule

  • Late June/Early July: Stakeholder Outreach
  • August: Informational Briefing to County Council
  • Mid-August: Draft Code Language and Additional Stakeholder Outreach
  • Fall: Planning Commission Briefing and Hearing
  • Winter: County Legislative Consideration

Project Documents