Frequently Asked Questions

What is my property zoned (i.e. setbacks, lot size, coverage, etc.)?
While this question is easily answered, we will need some information from you to determine the zoning designation for your property. First, we will need your 10-digit parcel number, or the land owners full name, which can be obtained from the Assessor's Office. In some cases, we may also need a copy of the aerial photograph for your property, which can also be obtained from the Assessor's Office (509/422-7190). Setbacks, minimum lot size, density, and general land use questions can then be answered.
Is my property within the 100-year floodplain?
In many cases this question can be answered by simply knowing your parcel number. However, there are cases where we will need a copy of the aerial photograph to compare with the FEMA floodplain maps. Most of the time a determination can be made. In some cases, staff must conduct a site visit, upon the submission of a Site Analysis. If a determination cannot be made by staff, a Flood Elevation Survey may be required, depending upon location and type of structure being built.
Why do I need a site analysis for my property when I apply for a building permit?

Generally speaking, a site analysis looks at your proposal in a broad scope for suitability with the property it is intended for. The purpose of a site analysis is to evaluate the suitability of a specific piece of property for a specific development proposal in light of applicable development regulations (such as, but not limited to, the Okanogan County Zoning Code, GMA Critical Areas Regulations, The Master Program For Okanogan County Shoreline Management, and Okanogan County Flood Ordinance 97-2) which are not administered by the County Building Department. Planning regulations typically address issues such as, but not limited to, building setback from property lines, building height, building density, adequate parking, wetlands, steep slope and erosion concerns, significant riparian areas, wildlife areas, and development near airports. The Building Department evaluates structural-specific issues such as, but not limited to, building dimensions, foundations, insulation, roof load requirements, construction materials, etc.

How far from a river, stream, or lake can I build?
If you call (509-422-7160) or E-Mail the Office of Planning and Development and provide your ten-digit Assessor’s parcel number, and the type/use of the structure you are proposing, staff will usually be able to determine the required buffer distance. In some circumstances, where flood plain areas are not clear, a site visit and/or a certified flood elevation survey may be required.

The distance a structure may be placed from a river, stream, or lake, is a function of the type of development proposed, the particular water involved, the presence of riparian vegetation within a designated wildlife habitat, site slope, and the presence of the one hundred year flood plain and/or wetlands. This placement distance is measured from the “ordinary high water mark” (OHWM) of the water in question towards the land on a horizontal plane (as the crow flies). Most of the larger, and some of the smaller, bodies of water in Okanogan County have “Shoreline Environment” designations which are found in the Master Program For Okanogan County Shoreline Management. Different Shoreline Environments have different buffer distance requirements. For example: a residence may be placed up to fifty feet (50’) from the OHWM of a water designated as Rural Environment if flood plain, flood way, wetlands, riparian vegetation within a GMA Level I or Level II Habitat, and/or steep slopes are not present. Where flood plain, flood way, steep slopes, riparian vegetation within a designated habitat, and/or wetlands are present, other permits and/or an additional buffer distance may be required.
What can I do with my property?
For any given piece of property in Okanogan County there is a great number of things which may be done, given all possible permutations and combinations of structures, uses, property characteristics, and property location. Okanogan County is divided up into fifteen zoning districts. For each of these districts, the Zoning Code (see District Use Chart Okanogan County Zoning Code, Title 17) lists approximately one hundred different uses which are designated as permitted, permitted by Conditional Use Permit, permitted by Planned Development, permitted by Binding Site Plan, or prohibited. It is important to note that even if a use is “permitted,” appropriate development permits and a site analysis are still required. If you need assistance determining the zoning district for a piece of property, simply call (509/422-7160) or E-Mail the Office of Planning and Development and have the Assessor’s ten-digit parcel number ready. If you are considering a specific development idea for a specific piece of property, detailed feedback may be obtained through the site analysis process, even if you are not ready to apply for a building permit.
Is my property within the shoreline?

The easiest way to make this determination is to call (509/422-7160) or E-Mail the Office of Planning and Development with the Assessor’s ten-digit parcel number for the property. With this information, staff can then research the appropriate maps and determine which “Shoreline Environment”, if any, is associated with the property according to the Master Program for Okanogan County Shoreline Management. Generally speaking, the shoreline jurisdiction (area subject to regulation under the Master Program) extends across the water and then landward two hundred feet as measured on a horizontal plane from the ordinary high water mark (OHWM), or to the landward extent of the one hundred year flood plain, whichever is greater. If the property is within a Shoreline Environment, specific regulations may apply. These regulations differ depending upon which of the five Environments is involved. If the property is within a wildlife habitat area, and riparian vegetation is present, shoreline-related regulations administered under the adopted GMA Critical Areas Regulations may apply. Flood-related regulations are administered under Flood Ordinance 97-2 and the adopted GMA Critical Areas Regulations.

How do I get an E-911 address?
You may obtain an E-911 address, or have other addressing questions answered, by calling 509/422-7160 or sending an E-Mail request to the Office of Planning and Development. If you know the Assessor’s ten-digit parcel number associated with the property and/or the E-911 addresses of neighboring properties, this will generally facilitate a quicker address assignment. E-911 addressing used to be provided through the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office, but is now part of the Office of Planning and Development program. For more information on E-911 addressing CLICK HERE.
What should I have on my site plan?
Site plans are required for all building permit applications as well as many other development applications within the County. A site plan should include the following:

  • the exterior boundaries of the parcel as indicated on the aerial photograph. This does not include adjacent properties under the same ownership;
  • the distances to all property lines from the exterior boundaries of the structure, including decks;
  • the location and distances to any streams, rivers, wetlands, steep slopes, wells, drainfields, roads, or other significant topographical features.
I need a copy of a map. How do I get one?

For GIS (Geographical Information System), floodplain, wildlife, zoning maps etc., please call the Office of Planning and Development, or click here. If you are requesting a copy of an aerial photograph or a copy of a recorded plat, contact the Assessor's Office (509/422-7190). If you are requesting a copy of a recorded record of survey, please contact the Auditor's Office (509/422-7240).

Who do I apply with if my property is on the Colville Reservation?
If your property is located within the boundaries of the Colville Indian Reservation, and you intend to develop your property, you may apply with either the Tribal Planning Office, or with the Okanogan County Office of Planning and Development. For more detailed information, click here.
Do I apply for my building permit at the Planning Office?
Yes and No. You apply and receive the actual building permit at the Okanogan County Building Department. You apply for a site analysis at the Planning Department. The Building Department cannot issue a permit without an approved signed site analysis form from the Planning Department. You may apply for a site analysis at any time prior to or during the building permit process.
Do I need a building permit?
Contact the Okanogan County Building Department for information on building permits.
What are the requirements for installing a septic system?
The Office of Planning and Development does not administer septic or well regulations. For information on septic and wells, contact the Okanogan County Health District.
What are the requirements for drilling a well?
The Office of Planning and Development does not administer septic or well regulations. For information on septic and wells, contact the Okanogan County Health District.
Is my property within a Critical Wildlife Area?

The Office of Planning and Development can determine if a particular property is within a Critical Wildlife Area if a parcel number and/or aerial photograph is given.

Does my property contain wetlands?
Determining the presence of a wetland, wetland size, and wetland type is not always an easy process. Wetlands are often located along shorelines or in areas “inundated or saturated by surface water or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions”. “Wetlands generally include swamps, marches, bogs, and similar areas.” If your property has any of these characteristics, temporary or year round, there may be a wetland present. The first step in finding out is to call the Office of Planning and Development at (509/422-7160), or E-Mail us the Assessor’s ten-digit parcel number for the property. This will allow staff an opportunity to examine aerial photography of the area and available wetlands inventory maps produced by the United States Department of the Interior. In some circumstances, the size and nature of the wetland may be approximated to answer land use questions. In other circumstances, it is necessary for Planning staff or a member of an agency of expertise to complete a field study and/or wetland delineation. Filed studies and wetland delineations utilize accepted practices to determine the size, type, and function of a wetland. It is up to the public, in the form of adopted regulations, hearing testimony, and decisions by elected, appointed, and hired officials to determine the value (and extent of needed protection) of a particular wetland. For more information on wetlands in Okanogan County, you may want to browse through the adopted GMA Critical Area Regulations, or contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and/or the Washington State Department of Ecology.
How do I get copies of codes/ordinances/permits/minutes?

Copies of codes/ordinances/permits may be downloaded from this site. Copies may also be mailed to you for a copying fee.

Does Okanogan County plan under the Growth Management Act?
Okanogan County is not mandated to plan under the Growth Management Act. Okanogan County's population is below the mandated limit required to plan under the Act. However, Okanogan County has, through the adoption of current land use codes and planned future revisions to those codes, to follow similar planning and land use guidelines as those required by the act.