On the Farm

Read the latest from the Farm Planning and Agricultural Assistance Program.

View All Posts

Oct 27

Agriculture Structures: New Building Permit Exemption

Posted on October 27, 2015 at 8:44 AM by Allan Warren

RainierFarmGood news for agricultural businesses and livestock farm owners! Beginning in 2015, agriculture structures up to 600 square feet may be exempt from having to obtain a building permit in Pierce County. Examples of these types of agricultural structures include: hay or equipment storage buildings, run-in shelters for livestock, small barns, manure storage structures, and chicken coops. In order to be exempt, all of the following conditions must be met:  
  • Structures are built to the latest version of the International Residential Code and International Building and Fire Code 
  • Adherence to all applicable Pierce County, State, and Federal regulations or ordinances 
  • Structures are located on land where Pierce County zoning allows agriculture activities
  • Structures are located on a parcel equal to or greater than 5 acres. A maximum of two exempt structures per parcel are allowed 
  • Structures must be a one-story detached accessory agriculture building. An agriculture building is defined as follows: AGRICULTURAL BUILDING (Barn) (International Building code Section 202) designed and constructed to house farm implements, hay, grain, poultry, livestock or other horticultural products. This structure shall not be a place of human habitation or a place of employment where agricultural products are processed, treated or packaged, nor shall it be a place used by the public 
  • Structure location must comply with setback requirements in Pierce County Code Title 18A www.co.pierce.wa.us/DocumentCenter/View/26459  
  • A minimum distance of 10 feet is maintained between other detached structures as per Pierce County Fire Code. 
You can find out if your property’s community plan area and zoning classification allows agricultural structures by searching here: https://palsonline.co.pierce.wa.us/pals/public/#/AboutMyProperty, or by contacting the Pierce County Planning and Land Service’s Development Center. Different Community Plan areas and zone classifications allow for different uses. Uses are organized into use categories, use types, and levels (intensities or characteristics of the use). Find the type of structure you want to build, and find its corresponding Use Type. Refer to this Use Type in your Community Plan Area Use Table. For example, if agricultural activities are the main activity on the property, then barns and coops fall under the Animal Production, Boarding, and Slaughtering Use Type. However, if agricultural activities are accessory to a residential use, then barns and coops fall under Accessory Uses. Storage Buildings may be considered an accessory use, and most zone classifications allow accessory uses.

Setback requirements depend on whether agriculture is the main activity on the property in its Community Plan Area. As a principal use, barns, stables, riding arenas, cages, coops, or similar animal enclosures shall be set back 45 feet from any adjacent property line. As an accessory use, the setback depends on the animal type (e.g. poultry); please refer to Pierce County Code Title 18A, Residential Accessory Use List for more information. Sites containing critical areas may require larger setbacks. Storage buildings must be set back according to your underlying Zone Classification. To find the required setbacks either find your Zone Classification, then refer to Table 18A.15.040 in Pierce County Code Title 18A, Setback and Height, or contact or visit the Development Center for assistance.

Depending on the location of your structure, even when all of the above conditions are met, you still may need a site development permit, a critical area review, or both from the Development Center. Both of these permits are separate and distinct from building permits. Even if those additional permits are not needed, you still need to ‘make it official’ by filling out an affidavit which includes a scaled site plan of the property with the proposed structure’s location, and file it at the Development Center. The affidavit will be recorded on your property’s title. The affidavit form is found here: http://www.piercecountywa.org/DocumentCenter/View/34842.

The Development Center is open Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., and is located at 2401 South 35th Street, Tacoma, WA 98409. Their number is (253) 798-3739. In addition you can submit an online question here: http://www.co.pierce.wa.us/FormCenter/Planning-and-Land-Services-13/Ask-The-Development-Center-59.