Developing Shoreline Property

Regulations, definitions, information and applications for the most common shoreline developments.

The shoreline regulations, SJCC 18.50, apply landward 200’ of the ordinary high water mark (OHWM), as well as in all aquatic areas.

The interactive Polaris map (to the right ---> ) offers parcel information.  Check the "Comprehensive Plan" box (left side of page) in the "Map Contents" layer of Polaris Parcel Map to see the designation and density.  

 Maps of the main islands (linked directly below) show shoreline “designations” as capital letters:

R = Rural                                                   
RR = Rural Residential          
RFF = Rural Farm Forest       
U = Urban                     
C = Conservancy                                  
N = Natural  
PMT = Ports, marinas and marine transportation                                                                       

Polaris Parcel Map


San Juan Comprehensive Plan Land Use and Shoreline Master Program Map

San Juan Landuse with Proposed SMP

Lopez Comprehensive Plan Land Use and Shoreline Master Program Map

Lopez Landuse with Proposed SMP

Orcas Comprehensive Plan Land Use and Shoreline Master Program Map

Orcas_Landuse with Proposed SMP


Residential Development

The most common shoreline development is “residential development.” Developing a site to build or remodel a home is addressed in SJCC 18.50.540. Owners or prospective owners may obtain advance approval of a site plan for residential development by submitting a Pre-Application Request Form (DOC  PDF). Most single family residential construction is exempt from a shoreline permit, though a building permit is required. Please review the Shoreline Residential Appurtenances policy here.

Tree Removal

Shoreline tree removal is regulated by the FWHCA section of the Critical Area regulations (SJCC 18.35.130.B.1 FWHCA Tree Removal) with submittal of a Tree Removal Application and compliance with the shoreline regulations of SJCC 18.50.330.B.8 and D2 Residential Tree Removal. Read the definition of a “hazard tree" here.

Critical Area Regulations

In addition to the shoreline regulations, all shorelines are also subject to the “Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas” (FWHCA) section of the Critical Area regulations, SJCC 18.35.110-140.  SJCC Table 18.35.130-3 indicates whether a project is allowable in aquatic FWHCAs and its buffers. An allowable project may also require land use or building permits.


​Docks, boat ramps, mooring buoys and marine railways are addressed in the following SJCC 18.50.240, SJCC18.50.250, SJCC 18.50.260, SJCC 18.50.270, SJCC 18.50.280,  SJCC 18.50.290, SJCC 18.50.300, SJCC 18.50.310, SJCC 18.50.320, and  SJCC 18.50.330 .

Dock construction is subject to critical area regulations in SJCC 18.50.130

​ - Building a new dock usually requires a “shoreline permit” ( Shoreline Permit Application and Checklist for Application.) 
​ - Reconfiguring an existing dock may also require a shoreline permit or in some cases, revision of an existing permit may be allowed.
​- Repairing an existing dock usually requires approval of an “exemption from shoreline permit” (Exemption Application).
​ - Mooring buoys are usually subject to approval of an exemption (Exemption Application)


​Small stairs to the beach may be approved with an Exemption from a shoreline permit as provided by SJCC 18.50.020.G.3.
​​Larger stairs “Pedestrian beach access structures” are regulated by SJCC 18.50.300 and are subject to approval of a Shoreline Permit Application.

Shoreline Modification and Stabilization

​Eroding, slumping banks and shifting beaches are geologic processes which can effect residential development. Changing those dynamic processes with stabilization measures that alter the shape and composition of the shore (using armoring, rockeries, jetties, rock walls, retaining walls and the like) can cause long-term issues for the public.
Guidance for designing structures to control shoreline erosion is found in the WDFW Marine Shoreline Design Guidelines.

Shoreline Modification and Stabilization Regulations