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Department of Community Development News

Posted on: August 11, 2023

Permits Required for Building, Grading, and Other Construction Activities in San Juan County

Community Development

SAN JUAN COUNTY, WA. August 11, 2023 – The San Juan County Department of Community Development (DCD) reminds the public that permits are essential to ensuring safe building practices and the long-term safety of buildings and property. Obtaining permits help protect property value, the environment, and your investment. It’s also the law, and there are financial penalties for undertaking work without an appropriate permit. 

Section 18.100.200 of the San Juan County Code, Penalties for violations by a professional, states: “A violation of the regulations listed in SJCC 18.100.030 by a contractor, excavator, tradesman, or other professional, who by the nature of their profession knows, or is reasonably expected to know, or is responsible for obtaining and/or verifying that a permit(s) or approval is required prior to the work, shall be subject to a civil monetary penalty to be imposed by the director in the amount of $1,000. The DCD Director is authorized to reduce such monetary penalty for good cause shown, otherwise the penalty shall be assessed regardless of whether the violation is cured or remedied.” (Ord. 9-2013 § 19)

How to Apply for a Permit:

The County continues to find unpermitted clearing and grading activities, building construction, impacts to wetland and shoreline habitats, and other activities taking place by contractors who do not apply for and receive permits. This results in additional staff time being needed to investigate violations resulting from unpermitted activities and for property owners to develop costly mitigation plans to remedy the impacts of unpermitted activities.

DCD encourages all property owners and contractors undertaking work within San Juan County to apply for the necessary work permits. The department is working to process permits as quickly as possible and is taking the following steps to improve customer service: 

  • Building Permit Review: The County has hired Townzen & Associates to assist with review of building plans. This provides additional review capacity for staff and should help shorten review times. 
  • Environmental Review: The County has hired Canyon Environmental to review critical area reports which should help reduce the months long land use permit review times. 
  • Department Website: Staff is actively reorganizing the DCD website to improve the user experience and to streamline the information gathering and application processes.  
  • SmartGov: Staff is expanding the SmartGov system to include all permits. This means users will have one portal through which they can access and track all their applications and permits.

Please direct any questions to DCD’s main number: 360-378-2354 and you will be connected with the appropriate Building or Land Use staff.

About San Juan County’s Department of Community Development 

San Juan County’s Department of Community Development is responsible for building permits and inspections, code enforcement, land use designations, long range planning, and more. The department’s main office is located at 135 Rhone Street, Friday Harbor, WA 98250. For more information about San Juan County’s Department of Community Development, visit


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