The uses and/or development described in subsection B of this section may be undertaken in a critical area or critical area buffer if all of the requirements of the referenced sections are met. A Critical Areas Land Use Permit shall be required unless otherwise noted.
A. Hierarchy of Alteration. Where a use or development is proposed on a site with more than one type of critical area, preference shall be given to disturbing those critical areas with the least sensitivity to human disturbance, based on a consideration of both existing functions and values, and future functions and values if left undisturbed.
B. Uses and Development Allowed within Critical Areas. The following chart lists uses and development that may be allowed in a critical area, critical area buffer, or critical area structure setback. The sections noted in the chart for each use or activity and critical area refer to the applicable performance standards that must be met.
Type of Critical Area
Geologic Hazard Areas7
Frequently Flooded Areas
Allowed Use or Development
Allowed Use or Development
Existing agricultural activities2
Public flood protection measures4
Allowed Use or Development
New or expanded private nonmotorized trails
Existing landscape maintenance2
Habitat improvement projects
Reasonable use exception8
Allowed Use or Development
Moorage and docks associated with a residential use
(1)For purposes of this section, repair and maintenance includes replacement of facilities and systems, or expansion so long as the area of permanent disturbance of the critical area or critical area buffer is not expanded. As applicable to public rights-of-way, private roads, access easements, parking areas and driveways, repair and maintenance also includes removing and replacing improvements within the area of permanent disturbance, and expansion of paved areas, so long as the area of permanent disturbance within the critical area or critical area buffer is not expanded.
(3)In the event of a conflict between this section and the utilities code, the utilities code shall prevail.
(4)Examples of public flood protection measures include, but are not limited to: flood control projects, flood damage reduction facilities such as levees, revetments, and pumping stations, streambank stabilization structures and surface water conveyance facilities, bridge piers and abutments.
(5)Examples of instream structures include, but are not limited to: sediment ponds, instream ponds, dams, and weirs.
(6)Permit requirements may vary. See subsection C.3.i of this section.
(7)For information on requirements applicable to geologic hazard areas see LUC 20.25H.120.
(8)Except in frequently flooded areas, development authorized pursuant to a reasonable use exception, LUC 20.25H.190, shall incorporate the required performance standards to the maximum extent feasible. Development in frequently flooded areas shall incorporate the required performance standards, unless a Variance is granted pursuant to Part 20.30G.
(9)In frequently flooded areas located within shoreline jurisdiction, expansion of existing single-family homes and new single-family homes (including full replacement (i.e., teardowns) are allowed in the area of special flood hazard when developed in accordance with the Residential shoreline regulations, LUC 20.25E.065 (including the shoreline vegetation conservation standards and requirements, LUC 20.25E.065.F), and also in accordance with the performance standards required by LUC 20.25H.180.C and 20.25H.180.C.1. A Critical Area Land Use Permit will be required.
(11)Authorized only in areas of the critical area buffer within areas of existing permanent disturbance, including, for example: paved or gravel surface parking areas, access drives, and other similar disturbed areas.
(12)Refer to Part 20.25M LUC, Light Rail Overlay District, for specific requirements applicable to EPF defined as a regional light rail transit facility or regional light rail transit system pursuant to LUC 20.25M.020. A Conditional Use Permit is not required when the City Council has approved a regional light rail transit facility or regional light rail transit system by resolution or ordinance, or by a development agreement authorized by Chapter 36.70B RCW and consistent with LUC 20.25M.030.B.1.
(15)In frequently flooded areas located within shoreline jurisdiction performance standards required by this section will be applied through the applicable permit required by Part 20.25E LUC and do not require a Critical Areas Land Use Permit.
(16)Authorized only in frequently flooded areas located within shoreline jurisdiction and only when developed in accordance with this part.
C. Performance Standards. The following performance standards apply as noted in the table in subsection B of this section. The critical areas report may not be used to modify the performance standards set forth in this subsection C:
1. Repair and Maintenance and/or Construction Staging.
a. Work shall be consistent with all applicable City of Bellevue codes and standards;
b. Removal of significant trees is prohibited; and
c. Areas of temporary disturbance associated with the work shall be restored to pre-project conditions, pursuant to a restoration plan meeting the requirements of LUC 20.25H.210.
2. New and Expanded Uses or Development. As used in this section, “facilities and systems” is a general term that encompasses all structures and improvements associated with the allowed uses and development described in the table in subsection B of this section:
a. New or expanded facilities and systems are allowed within the critical area or critical area buffer only where no technically feasible alternative with less impact on the critical area or critical area buffer exists. A determination of technically feasible alternatives will consider:
i. The location of existing infrastructure;
ii. The function or objective of the proposed new or expanded facility or system;
iii. Demonstration that no alternative location or configuration outside of the critical area or critical area buffer achieves the stated function or objective, including construction of new or expanded facilities or systems outside of the critical area;
iv. Whether the cost of avoiding disturbance is substantially disproportionate as compared to the environmental impact of proposed disturbance; and
v. The ability of both permanent and temporary disturbance to be mitigated.
iv. Any crossing over of a wetland or stream shall be designed to minimize critical area and critical area buffer coverage and critical area and critical area buffer disturbance, for example by use of bridge, boring, or open cut and perpendicular crossings, and shall be the minimum width necessary to accommodate the intended function or objective; provided, that the Director may require that the facility be designed to accommodate additional facilities where the likelihood of additional facilities exists, and one consolidated corridor would result in fewer impacts to the critical area or critical area buffer than multiple intrusions into the critical area or critical area buffer;
v. All work shall be consistent with applicable City of Bellevue codes and standards;
vi. The facility or system shall not have a significant adverse impact on overall aquatic area flow peaks, duration or volume or flood storage capacity, or hydroperiod;
vii. Associated parking and other support functions, including, for example, mechanical equipment and maintenance sheds, must be located outside critical area or critical area buffer except where no feasible alternative exists; and
viii. Areas of new permanent disturbance and all areas of temporary disturbance shall be mitigated and/or restored pursuant to a mitigation and restoration plan meeting the requirements of LUC 20.25H.210.
3. Performance Standards for Specific Uses or Development. In the event of a conflict between the generally applicable performance standards and specific standards, those more protective of critical area functions and values shall prevail.
a. Existing Agricultural Uses.
i. Erosion control measures, such as crop rotation, mulching, strip cropping and contour cultivation, must be used in conformance with guidelines and standards established by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture;
ii. Wetland areas must be protected from significant impacts of agricultural chemicals and pesticides as required by the Storm and Surface Water Utility Code, BCC 24.06.195, now or as hereafter amended, and must meet the water quality standards of BCC 24.06.060.K, now or as hereafter amended;
b. Emergency Actions. Emergency actions are those that must be undertaken immediately or within a time too short to allow full compliance with this part, to avoid an imminent threat to public health or safety, to prevent an imminent danger to public or private property, or to prevent an imminent threat of serious environmental degradation. The Director, or the designee thereof, shall designate when such an action constitutes an emergency action.
Emergency actions within the critical area or critical area buffer shall use reasonable methods to address the emergency; in addition, they must have the least possible impact to the critical area or critical area buffer. The person or agency undertaking such action shall notify the Director of the existence of the emergency and emergency actions within one working day following commencement of the emergency activity. Within 10 working days following completion of the emergency activity, the person or agency undertaking such action shall provide a written description of the work undertaken, site plan, description of pre-emergency site conditions and such other information required by the Director to make the determination required under this subsection.
Within 30 days, the Director shall determine if the action taken was within the scope of the emergency actions allowed in this subsection. If the Director determines that the action taken, or any part of the action taken, was beyond the scope of an allowed emergency action, then the applicant shall be subject to penalties and enforcement pursuant to Chapter 1.18 BCC. If the Director determines that the action taken was within the scope of an allowed emergency action, the applicant shall submit a restoration and/or mitigation plan pursuant to LUC 20.25H.210 based on the impacts of the emergency action to the critical area or critical area buffer within 60 days following the Director’s determination.
d. Instream Structures. Instream structures may be permitted only in accordance with a design prepared by a qualified professional and where the applicant demonstrates measurable benefits, such as decreased erosion, peak flow reduction, improved water quality, stream stabilization or improved habitat from the proposal. The applicant shall obtain any required state or federal permits prior to undertaking development.
e. New or Expanded Bridges and Culverts. New culverts shall be designed in accordance with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife “Water Crossing Design Guidelines” now or as hereafter amended. Culvert expansions shall be considered new culverts and be required to be designed in accordance with “Water Crossing Design Guidelines” now or as hereafter amended when the expansion is associated with a project increasing vehicular capacity and (i) there are fish present downstream; (ii) there is potential fish habitat upstream; and (iii) the benefits of so designing the culvert are substantial when compared to expanding the culvert based on its then-existing design.
f. Private Nonmotorized Trails. New nonmotorized trails within the critical area or critical area buffer are limited to those accessing single-family residential moorage or serving nonresidential uses, multifamily residential uses and more than one single-family lot. Private nonmotorized trails shall comply with the performance standards for trails in subsection C.3.g of this section. Nothing in this section prohibits the creation of a soft surface nonmotorized trail in a critical area buffer on a single-family lot for use of the residents of that lot. Such trail shall not exceed four feet in width, and shall not involve the removal of any significant trees or bank-stabilizing roots. In stream and wetland buffers, trails shall not be generally parallel to the stream or wetland edge, shall be located in the outer 25 percent of the buffer, and shall be located no closer than 25 feet from the upland edge of the wetland or stream. Any clearing of brush or vegetation shall be the minimum necessary, and shall be with hand tools only.
g. New and Expanded City and Public Parks.
(B) Trails shall be designed to compliment and enhance the environmental, educational, and social functions and values of the critical area with trail design and construction focused on managing and controlling public access and limiting uncontrolled access;
(E) The trail shall be the minimum width necessary to accommodate the intended function or objective;
(G) The facility shall not significantly change or diminish overall aquatic area flow peaks, duration or volume or flood storage capacity, or hydroperiod;
(H) Where feasible and consistent with any accessibility requirements, any trail shall be constructed of pervious materials;
(I) Crossings over and penetrations into wetlands and streams shall be generally perpendicular to the critical area, and shall be accomplished by bridging or other technique designed to minimize critical area disturbance considering the entire trail segment and function; and
(J) Areas of new permanent disturbance and all areas of temporary disturbance shall be mitigated and/or restored pursuant to a mitigation and restoration plan meeting the requirements of LUC 20.25H.210.
ii. Public Use Structures.
(A) New or expanded permanent public use structures, including interpretative centers, community centers, and other structures designed for public use and access are allowed in the critical area or critical area buffer only if no technically feasible alternative with less impact on the critical area or critical area buffer exists. A determination of technically feasible alternatives will consider:
(1) The location of existing infrastructure;
(2) The function or objective of the proposed new or expanded structure;
(3) Demonstration that no alternative achieves the stated function or objective;
(4) Whether the cost of avoiding disturbance is substantially disproportionate as compared to the environmental impact of proposed disturbance; and
(5) The ability of both permanent and temporary disturbance to be mitigated.
(B) If the applicant demonstrates that no technically feasible alternative with less impact on the critical area or critical area buffer exists, then the applicant shall comply with the generally applicable performance standards of subsection C.2.b of this section.
iii. Other Parks Uses. Other parks uses proposed within the critical area or critical area buffer, including public access drives, public loading areas, and public boat launches and ramps, shall meet the generally applicable performance standards of subsection C.2.b of this section; provided, that active use playfields shall not be allowed in critical area or critical area buffers; and provided, that parking supporting parks uses shall be allowed in a critical area buffer only if no technically feasible alternative, as demonstrated through application of the criteria of subsection C.2.a of this section, exists.
h. Existing Landscape Maintenance. Routine maintenance of existing legally established landscaping and landscape features developed prior to August 1, 2006, in the critical area or critical area buffer may be continued in accordance with this section. For purposes of this section, “routine maintenance” includes mowing, pruning, weeding, planting annuals, perennials, fruits and vegetables, and other activities associated with maintaining a legally established ornamental or garden landscape and landscape features. Also, for purposes of this subsection, “landscape features” refers to fences, trellises, rockeries and retaining walls, pathways, arbors, patios, play areas and other similar improvements. To be considered routine maintenance, activities shall have been consistently carried out so that the ornamental species predominate over native or invasive species. Maintenance shall be performed with hand tools or light equipment only, and no significant trees may be removed, except in accordance with vegetation management under subsection C.3.i of this section. Use of fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides is not recommended unless performed in accordance with the City of Bellevue’s “Environmental Best Management Practices” now or as hereafter amended.
i. Vegetation Management. Modification of vegetation in a critical area or critical area buffer that is not considered routine maintenance under subsection C.3.h of this section may be allowed if it meets the requirements of this section. Except where otherwise noted, a Critical Areas Land Use Permit is required. The following activities may also require a Clearing and Grading Permit, Chapter 23.76 BCC and/or SEPA review and must comply with all other Land Use Code provisions related to tree preservation and landscaping, including but not limited to LUC 20.20.520 and 20.20.900.
i. Noxious Species. The removal of the following vegetation with hand labor and hand-operated equipment from a critical area buffer, or from a geologic hazard critical area, is allowed without requiring a Critical Areas Land Use Permit or a Vegetation Management Plan:
(A) Invasive and noxious weeds;
(B) English ivy (Hedera helix);
(C) Himalayan blackberry (Rubus discolor, R. procerus); and
(D) Evergreen blackberry (Rubus laciniatus).
ii. Hazard Trees. The removal of trees from the critical area or critical area buffer that are hazardous, posing a threat to public safety, or posing an imminent risk of damage to an existing structure, public or private road or sidewalk, or other permanent improvement, is allowed without requiring a Critical Areas Land Use Permit or a Vegetation Management Plan; provided, that:
(A) The applicant submits a report on a form provided by the Director from a certified arborist, registered landscape architect, or professional forester that documents the hazard and provides a replanting schedule for the replacement trees;
(B) Tree cutting shall be limited to pruning and crown thinning, unless otherwise justified by a qualified professional. Where pruning or crown thinning is not sufficient to address the hazard, trees should be converted to wildlife snags and completely removed only where no other option removes the identified hazard;
(C) All vegetation cut (tree stems, branches, etc.) shall be left within the critical area or buffer unless removal is warranted due to the potential for creating a fire hazard or for disease or pest transmittal to other healthy vegetation;
(D) The landowner shall replace any trees that are removed pursuant to a restoration plan meeting the requirements of LUC 20.25H.210;
(E) If a tree to be removed provides critical habitat, such as an eagle perch, a qualified wildlife biologist shall be consulted to determine timing and methods for removal that will minimize impacts; and
(F) Hazard trees determined to pose an imminent threat or danger to public health or safety, to public or private property, or of serious environmental degradation may be removed or pruned by the landowner on whose property the tree is located prior to receiving the permits required under this part; provided, that the landowner makes reasonable efforts to notify the City, and within 14 days following such action, the landowner shall submit a restoration plan that demonstrates compliance with the provisions of this part.
iii. Forest Health. Measures to control a fire or halt the spread of disease or damaging insects; provided, that the removed vegetation shall be replaced pursuant to a restoration plan meeting the requirements of LUC 20.25H.210.
iv. Fire Safety. Where required pursuant to the International Fire Code, Section 304.1.2, as adopted and amended by the City of Bellevue, vegetation may be removed from the critical area or critical area buffer; provided, that the removed vegetation shall be replaced pursuant to a restoration plan meeting the requirements of LUC 20.25H.210.
v. Vegetation Management Plan – Maintenance for Utility, Transportation, Parks and Public Facility Projects. Vegetation may be periodically removed from the critical area or critical area buffer as part of an ongoing routine maintenance plan for utility, transportation, park and other public facility projects allowed pursuant to subsection B of this section. Such removal shall be pursuant to a Vegetation Management Plan meeting the requirements of this subsection.
(A) The Vegetation Management Plan shall be prepared by a qualified professional.
(B) The Vegetation Management Plan shall include:
(2) A site history;
(3) A discussion of the plan objectives;
(4) A description of all sensitive features;
(6) Allowed work windows;
(7) A clear delineation of the area within which clearing and other vegetation management practices are allowed under the plan; and
(8) Short- and long-term management prescriptions, including restoration and revegetation requirements. Cleared areas shall be restored and revegetated with native species to the extent such vegetation does not interfere with the function of the allowed structure, trail, facility or system.
vi. Vegetation Management Plan – Other Uses. The Director may approve proposals for vegetation replacement in a critical area buffer, or within a geologic hazard critical area, pursuant to a Vegetation Management Plan. The Vegetation Management Plan may also include a description of proposed vegetation pruning, including pruning techniques and timing and extent of proposed pruning; provided, that proposals to prune vegetation within geologic hazard areas and geologic hazard area buffers may be undertaken without a Critical Areas Land Use Permit or a Vegetation Management Plan in accordance with subsection C.3.i.vii of this section. The Vegetation Management Plan shall satisfy the requirements of subsection C.3.i.v(B) of this section, except that the following replaces subsection C.3.i.v(B)(8):
8. Short- and long-term management prescriptions, including characterization of trees and vegetation to be removed, and restoration and revegetation plans with native species, including native species with a lower growth habit. Such restoration and revegetation plans shall demonstrate that the proposed Vegetation Management Plan will not significantly diminish the functions and values of the critical area or alter the forest and habitat characteristics of the site over time.
Trees and vegetation may not be removed pursuant to this subsection if removal would result in a significant impact to habitat associated with species of local importance, unless the impacted function can be replaced elsewhere within the management area subject to the plan. In no event may a tree or vegetation which is an active nest site for a species of local importance be removed pursuant to this subsection.
In determining whether the vegetation management plan should be approved, the Director shall take into consideration any applicable neighborhood restrictive covenants that address view preservation or vegetation management if so requested in writing. The existence of and provisions of neighborhood restrictive covenants shall not be entitled to any more or less weight than other reports and materials in the record.
vii. Select Vegetation Pruning. Pruning of existing trees and vegetation within a geologic hazard critical area or geologic hazard critical area buffer, with hand labor and hand-operated equipment in accordance with this subsection is allowed without requiring a Critical Areas Land Use Permit or a Vegetation Management Plan, so long as the area is not included within a Native Growth Protection Area (NGPA) or Native Growth Protection Area Easement (NGPE). A Clearing and Grading Permit, Chapter 23.76 BCC, and SEPA review may still be required. The pruning allowed by this subsection shall be performed in accordance with guidelines established by the Director for each of the following pruning techniques: canopy reduction; canopy cleaning; canopy thinning; canopy raising or lifting; structural pruning; and canopy restoration. Where vegetation has been consistently managed by topping or other pruning methods, nothing in this part shall preclude the continuation of such practices. Pruning shall be performed in a manner that ensures continued survival of the vegetation.
In no event may a tree or vegetation which is an active nest site for a species of local importance be pruned pursuant to this subsection.
j. Habitat Improvement Projects. Disturbance, clearing and grading are allowed in the critical area or critical area buffer for habitat improvement projects demonstrating an improvement to functions and values of a critical area or critical area buffer. Habitat improvement projects shall be:
i. Sponsored or cosponsored by a public agency or federally recognized tribe and whose primary function is habitat restoration; or
k. Forest Practices. Forest practices may be allowed without requiring a Critical Areas Land Use Permit, where such practice is regulated and conducted in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 76.09 RCW, now or as hereafter amended, and forest practices regulations, WAC Title 222, now or as hereafter amended, and those that are exempt from the City’s jurisdiction; provided, that forest practice conversions are not exempt. The applicant shall demonstrate that all required federal and state permits have been obtained prior to undertaking any work.
ii. Aquaculture must to the extent feasible use underwater structures for fish-rearing facilities.
m. Stabilization Measures. Proposed stabilization measures within a critical area or critical area buffer to protect against streambank erosion or steep slopes or landslide hazards may be approved in accordance with this subsection. The performance standards of this part do not apply to shoreline stabilization measures in flood hazard critical areas when developed in accordance with LUC 20.25E.080.F.
n. Expansion of Existing Single-Family Primary Structures into Critical Area Buffer and Critical Area Structure Setback. Expansion into the critical area buffer and critical area structure setback may be allowed, pursuant to a Critical Areas Land Use Permit, where expansion outside of the critical area buffer and critical area structure setback is not feasible and where the purpose of the expansion is to serve a function that is an essential component of a single-family residence. Expansion into the critical area is prohibited. Any expansion must comply with all other applicable requirements of the code, including LUC 20.20.010.
(A) The expansion shall be along the existing building line parallel to the edge of the critical area, unless such expansion is not feasible. Only when such expansion is not feasible may expansion encroach further into the critical area buffer and critical area structure setback.
(B) Expansions shall be the minimum necessary to achieve the intended functions of the expansion, but in no event may the footprint expansion within the critical area buffer and critical area structure setback exceed 500 square feet over the life of the structure. Expansions into stream critical area buffers allowed pursuant to the City’s previous critical areas regulations (prior LUC 20.25H.085.B) shall be included in determining the allowed lifetime expansion; and
(C) Areas of new permanent disturbance and all areas of temporary disturbance within the critical area buffer shall be mitigated and/or restored pursuant to a mitigation and restoration plan meeting the requirements of LUC 20.25H.210.
ii. For purposes of this section, expansion outside of the critical area buffer and critical area structure setback shall be considered not feasible only when, considering the function to be served by the expansion and the existing structure’s layout and infrastructure (including plumbing, drainage and electrical systems):
(B) Expansion away from the critical area buffer and critical area structure setback, including into non-critical area setbacks modified pursuant to LUC 20.25H.040, will not realize the intended functions of the expansion; and
(C) Expansion upwards to the maximum building height of the underlying land use district, within the existing footprint, or together with expansions permitted under subsections C.3.n.ii(A) and C.3.n.ii(B) of this section, will not realize the intended functions of the expansion.
(Ord. 6521, 7-27-20, § 2; Ord. 6417, 5-21-18, §§ 24 – 28; Ord. 6102, 2-25-13, § 5; Ord. 5680, 6-26-06, § 3)