Community Development

Unified Development Code (UDC)

OVERVIEW:  The UDC is Title 18 of the Jefferson County Code (JCC).  It contains the regulatory provisions that implement the Comprehensive Plan including land use development standards and prescriptive criteria.

Click on these table of contents links to skip to that section:

Page last updated: 4/4/2012

New Items

UDC Amendment Process

Changes to the Unified Development Code can be proposed by citizens, the Planning Commission or the County.  The amendment process can be simplified into eight steps.  See those steps in the document below:

Code Interpretations

June 2010 - While every effort is made to prepare and adopt clearly written regulatory language, additional clarification is sometimes needed for site-specific application or when the larger 'playing field' changes.  Evaluation and analysis of unique situations, related issues, case law and legislative changes may drive the UDC Administrator to issue a formal interpretation of a particular section of the code.  Code interpretations do not change the laws in effect but serve as a courtesy to clarify understanding of how the laws apply. 

View existing code interpretations via the Laserfiche WebLink under 'Permits - Long Range Planning'.

Unifying the Development Code

July 2006 - The web version of the UDC is housed through an independent code publishing service, Code Publishing Inc.  The UDC is Title 18 of the Jefferson County Code (JCC).  Section titles of the UDC correspond with the JCC.  Previously used section titles (e.g., Section 1, Section 2, etc.) are no longer utilized.

The 2005-2006 UDC Omnibus Code Amendment Package was adopted by the Board of County Commissioners on July 10, 2006, excluding proposed provisions for mineral resource extraction and noise disturbance.  Visit the UDC Omnibus page for more information.

UDC Quick Links

UDC Background

On December 18, 2000, the Board of County Commissioners adopted the Unified Development Code (UDC) as the set of implementing regulations for the Jefferson County Comprehensive Plan.  The effective date of the UDC was January 16, 2001. This web page contains information related to the history and process involved in the adoption of the UDC as well as a complete and updated PDF copy of the UDC.

In August 1998, after years of hard work by dedicated county citizens and countless hours of public review, discussion and debate, Jefferson County adopted its
Comprehensive Plan consistent with the Washington state Growth Management Act (GMA). Adoption of the Jefferson County Comprehensive Plan laid the groundwork for land use planning and management in the county over the next 20 years. The Plan strikes a balance between growth, lifestyle preferences, economic development, and protection of natural resources and the environment. The Plan called for sweeping changes in land use management, including adopting new "streamlined" development regulations, incorporating measurable performance standards for new development, increasing the opportunities for rural economic development, and basing the regulation of critical (or environmentally sensitive) areas on the best available science.

The next step was to implement many of the provisions of the Plan by translating the goals, policies and action strategies outlined in the Plan into new development regulations. Until those development regulations could be completed, the County adopted interim measures, called the Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) to temporarily serve as the Comprehensive Plan implementing regulations. However, the ICO was only intended to be a temporary bridge to Plan implementation and it did not address the key provisions of the Plan. Nevertheless, the ICO was in effect for more than two and one-half years and many of the key provisions of the Plan, such as increased economic development opportunities and streamlined permitting, were yet to be implemented. In fact, some potential economic development opportunities in the county had been lost since adoption of the Plan because they were not allowed under the ICO. So, beginning in June 2000, the County initiated development of a Unified Development Code, or UDC, which included regulations for a wide variety of land use activities combined into one integrated document.

The goal of the UDC is to implement the key provisions of the Plan through three major themes:

  • Provide for increased economic development opportunities

  • Provide for increased levels of environmental protection

  • Produce a streamlined, less costly, and more efficient development permitting system

The UDC includes revisions to zoning, critical areas, land division, permit review processes, comprehensive plan amendment procedures, and development and performance standards for a wide variety of land use activities in the county. Consultants, along with staff from the Departments of Community Development, Environmental Health, and Public Works, as well as the Prosecuting Attorney's office, worked intently with the Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners between June and November of 2000 to prepare recommendations on the proposed UDC. In response to the public comments received during Planning Commission review, a Final Draft of the UDC was prepared for the Board that contained significant changes from the first draft. The Department of Community Development worked closely with the Planning Commission, other County departments, the public and the Board to work out the "kinks" involved in adopting such sweeping new regulations and making sure that they "fit" the culture and character of Jefferson County. 

The UDC is comprised of 10 sections or chapters. It serves to replace and combine almost 30 different existing County ordinances, resolutions and sets of regulations, including the ICO, into one combined and integrated document. The UDC will serve as the main easy-to-find source for all of the County's major land use regulations in a more user-friendly format. The chapters of the UDC are laid out in a manner that combines aspects of both traditional zoning and the use of "performance" standards and overlay districts that allow increased flexibility for rural economic development while ensuring that the rural character of the county is maintained.

Adoption of the UDC implements significant Comprehensive Plan provisions by opening new doors for economic development, and allowing new streamlined permitting, environmental protection, and affordable housing measures to go into effect. Some of the major recommended highlights of the UDC include: 

Increased Economic Development Opportunities

  • Allows almost 20 new named small-scale recreational and tourist uses in rural areas with accompanying performance standards to maintain rural character, including provisions for streamlining approvals for certain uses

  • Establishes standards for more than ten named home businesses and more than a dozen new cottage industries allowed in rural areas, including provisions for exempting certain uses from the review process

  • New performance standards for more than 40 different rural land uses and activities to ensure clear and predictable standards for new development

  • Expands the range of economic development opportunities allowed in the West End

  • Establishes residential clustering provisions in rural areas and allowance for Planned Rural Residential Developments (PRRDs), including provisions for density bonuses

  • Includes a new provision on Site Plan Approval Advance Determinations (SPAADs) providing for land use approval of certain applications without the expense of engineered building plans

  • Provides increased range of uses allowed in resource industrial districts

  • Allows for mixed use development in rural village centers (RVC)

Streamlined Permitting Procedures

  • The UDC is much more user friendly to read than existing codes and assorted interpretations

  • Since the performance and development standards are more prescriptive it makes it clear to an applicant what the development requirements are, thereby removing the vagueness of the existing code

  • New discretionary permitting system for selected land uses that recognizes some conditional uses would be minor and would not require a public hearing

  • Includes a clear and easily understandable use table by land use district and provides 'flexibility" for the administrator to "classify" un-named uses on the use table

  • New application forms using a consolidated "Master Land Use Application (MLA) form" to expedite project development reviews

  • The noticing requirements for certain uses have been eliminated or cut in half and the UDC eliminates the costly and time consuming "notice to title provisions" of the resource lands ordinances and the "pending SEPA threshold determinations" because of the adequacy of the environmentally sensitive areas section of the UDC

  • The County (rather than applicants) will now prepare adjacent property owner lists (APOs) using its Geographic Information System (GIS) database, resulting in reduced cost to applicants

  • New Comprehensive Plan amendment "docketing" process

  • Allows Boundary Line Adjustment's to occur across land use zones

  • Creates an enforcement policy with emphasis on resolution at the administrative level only involving the Prosecuting Attorney and court system as a last resort

  • Provides for a new appeal mechanism on enforcement issues

  • Enhanced environmental protection

  • Clearer provisions for regulated and exempt activities in environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands and fish and wildlife habitat areas and their buffers

  • Increased buffers required for wetlands and fish and wildlife habitat areas to meet the "best available science" requirement of the Comprehensive Plan and the GMA

  • Discretionary authority to require habitat management plans for sensitive species

  • Includes new clearing and grading provisions

  • Reduced impervious surface coverage in rural residential districts and implementation of a new stormwater permit

  • Requires on-site infiltration of stormwater in saltwater intrusion areas

  • Prohibits new asphalt batch plants in rural residential districts

  • New performance standards and provisions for mineral extraction and processing

  • Moves the County closer to meeting the requirements of the Endangered Species Act regarding protection of Puget Sound salmon

More Affordable Housing

  • Increases the maximum allowed size of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) from the current 800 square feet to 1250 square feet to more easily accommodate manufactured homes

  • Allows duplexes by right in rural residential districts subject to underlying density requirements

  • Allows duplexes and triplexes in Rural Village Centers

  • Provisions for appropriately-scaled Residential Care and Assisted Living Facilities in rural residential areas

  • Maintains limited density exemptions for pre-existing and approved but unbuilt septic systems

UDC Amendments

Note on Amendments: There may be lag time between the adoption of an ordinance amending the UDC and the physical updating of the sections through the code publishing service.  The County Commissioners' office houses the official version of the Jefferson County Code.


Ordinance No. Date Subject of Amendment
03-0702-01 7/2/01 On-site Sewage Systems; SPAADs
07-1224-01 12/24/01 Master Planned Resorts; Development Agreements
02-0311-02 3/11/02 Major Industrial Developments
04-0422-02 4/22/02 Groundwater Protection (housekeeping)
07-0723-02 7/23/02 Seawater Intrusion Issues
09-0923-02 9/23/02 Seawater Intrusion Issues
18-1213-02 12/23/02   Forest Transition Overlay District, Comprehensive Plan Amendment Application Deadline, Glen Cove Light Industrial District and Stormwater Standards, Brinnon Subarea Plan
21-1220-02 12/20/02
02-0210-03 2/10/03 Delay of 2001 Stormwater Standards until 7/1/03
03-0303-03 3/3/03 Interim Official Controls (Development Regulations) for Marrowstone Island Pursuant to RCW 36.70A.390
05-0428-03 4/28/03 Implement a Settlement Agreement between Jefferson County and the Washington Environmental Council
06-0609-03 6/9/03 Seawater Intrusion Issues
06-0510-04 5/10/04 Agricultural Activities & Accessory Uses
10-0823-04 8/23/04 UDC Appendix D: Implementing Development Regulations for Irondale & Port Hadlock UGA

This list is not up to date

Additionally, the following Ordinance adopted in 2003 supplements UDC Section 1 with specific procedures for public hearings conducted by the Hearing Examiner for certain types of land use permits:

More Information

Online access to Title 18 JCC is provided through:

Hard copies of Title 18 JCC are available from:

     Code Publishing Company
     9410 Roosevelt Way NE
WA 98115-2844
     Phone: 206-527-6831 / 800-551-2633
     Fax: 206-527-8411


Copies of JCC Volume I and Volume II (which contains Title 18) are currently provided at Code Publishing's current price ($0.10 per page, subject to change).  Customers receive updates directly from Code Publishing.

For more information, contact:
Long-Range Planning
Department of Community Development
621 Sheridan Street
Townsend  WA 98368
Phone: 360-379-4450
Fax: 360-379-44


Best viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or later
Windows - Mac