This document explains required setbacks for a residential structure.
Revised: October 2002
Why Are Setbacks Required?
Residential setbacks from roads, property lines, drainfields, critical areas, and other structures are designed to protect the public health and safety by providing for fire protection, protection of drinking wells from pollution and septic drainfields from damage, allowing sufficient light and spatial separation, and adequate area for the expansion of road right-of-way.
Increased setbacks to foundations are required within some forest resource zoning districts. These setbacks provide increased safety for structures from falling timber, fires, and other situations which may occur in resource zones.
Properties which lie outside of a forestry or agricultural resource zoning district but directly abut such a district are also required to have greater setbacks.
What Setbacks Normally Apply to a Residential Structure?
Minimum residential setbacks may be required by the Uniform Building Code (from property lines to the structure and between structures), the Zoning Code (from property lines to the vertical foundation of the structure), State and County Health Codes (distance from wells and drainfields), and the Critical Areas Ordinance (distance from structures and land uses to critical areas and their buffers). Each of these setbacks are administered by the Department of Community Development. The required setbacks for your project can be determined by talking to Department of Community Development personnel.
Can I Build Closer Than the Required Setback?
Certain architectural elements, such as eaves, decks, bay windows, etc. can project up to two feet beyond the required setback. In some cases, setbacks required by the Zoning Code, Shoreline Master Program, and Critical Areas Ordinance may be reduced if the applicant is granted a variance. Variance applications must be considered at a public hearing after which the request may be approved, denied or approved with conditions. In order to obtain a variance from the setback standards, the applicant must demonstrate that the structure could not be built in conformance with the required setbacks, in addition to the existence of unique circumstances that would justify relief from the normal setback provisions. Variance applicants should be aware of the specific requirements for approval, prior to making application.
Other Types of Setbacks
Setbacks to bluffs, shorelines, wetlands, and habitat areas apply in certain circumstances. The County Building Code requires that structures be set back a distance equal to the height of an unstable bluff not to exceed 100 feet. The Department of Community Development has reference material on file to help determine if the bluff near your building site is considered stable or unstable. Septic systems must also be set back from bluffs.
The Clallam County Shoreline Master Program and the Critical Areas Ordinance also establish setbacks from all shorelines in the County. These range from 35 feet to 200 feet depending on the classification of the fish and wildlife habitat or the shoreline environment designation.
Where Can I Obtain More Information on Setbacks for My Project?
Stop by the Department of Community Development with your tax parcel number and a sketch of your lot and DCD staff will review all the various setbacks your structure will need to meet.
Setbacks in Resource Zones
Increased setbacks to foundations are required within some forest resource zoning districts (CF, CFM-20, CFM-5). These setbacks serve to provide increased safety for structures from falling timber, fires and other situations which may occur in resource zoning districts.
Commercial Forest Zone (CF)
Foundation to all property lines - 130 feet unless the lot is less than 10 acres in size and was legally created prior to June 27, 1995, in which case the setbacks are 50 feet.
CFM Zones (CFM-20, CFM-5)
- Foundation to rear property line - 15 feet (or 40 feet from the centerline of the right-of-way of a rear street).
- Foundation to side property line - 10 feet (or 40 feet from the centerline of the right-of-way of a side street).
- Foundation to centerline of right-of-way of front road depends on classification of the road. (45, 50 or 60 feet from center of right-of-way).
Resource Zoning Districts
Properties which lie outside of a forestry resource zoning district, but directly abut such a district, and are either R5 or R1 zoning, require a 50 foot setback for residential structures and a 20 foot setback for detached accessory structures along those property lines which abut the resource zoning district (CF, CFM-20 and CFM-5).