FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions (and answers)

What happens after I apply for a permit?
The staff reviews your plans and several other outside departments review them as well, including:
      
Environmental Health for Well and Septic
       
Public Works
      
Public Utilities
      
State Agencies
      
Federal Agencies
Once you have made any required changes and all departments have given their approvals, we will send you an email or a phone call telling you that you may pay your permit fees and receive your permit. 

What fees must I pay?
The fees for a permit, plan review, and other services vary depending upon a number of factors. We can give you more information once we know what you plan to build. 

When is a License Required for Businesses in Unincorporated Walla Walla County?
Anyone looking to open a business in Unincorporated Walla Walla County should visit the Planning & Building Department and find out if their proposed business will require a License or Home Occupation permit. Some business uses are restricted by the Zoning designations for a particular land or building site. Businesses can be cited if the appropriate Permit or license has not been obtained. Go to the Planning & Building Division site for contact information and office hours.

What do I need to submit to get a building permit?
Different building projects have different requirements (for instance, a permit to build a single-family home requires far more extensive plans, fees, and inspections than a permit to re-roof a single-family home). The County has informational pamphlets detailing the requirements for virtually every kind of building project. The best way for you to answer this question is to review the pamphlet for the particular project you have in mind. If that doesn't do it, call or ask the Building Inspection staff.

What are the requirements for plans? Must I have an architect prepare my plans?
When plans are required for a permit, they must be drawn to  scale on 11” x 17” minimum or larger paper.  Please refer to our Plan Review Checklist for our requirements.  Your drawings must be legible and must be complete enough to describe accurately how you will accomplish the proposed work.
For minor projects such as small decks, kitchen remodeling, bathroom remodeling, and even some small additions, you do not need an architect.  However, if you are unfamiliar with drawing techniques, construction codes, symbols, or terminology, you should consider obtaining the services of a qualified draftsperson.  For major projects, we encourage you to consider hiring a licensed architect or engineer.

How much does a permit cost?
Permit fees vary depending on the type of permit. The Permit Coordinator can usually provide you with an estimate of the fees for your residential project. You should speak to the Building Official for a commercial project. 

Why does it take so long to issue my permit?
The length of time it takes to process a permit depends on the type of permit you are applying for and your property's location. If your property is within an area that is subject to certain discretionary planning permits, such as Critical Area Review, Wildlife Habitat, or similar planning permits, your processing time will increase. The volume of permits in process and the complexity of your project can also affect processing time. We review permits on a first-come, first-served basis.  If for some reason while in the review process we find issues with documents you submitted, and you have to make changes and resubmit, you will go to the end of the line of the current submitted applications.

Why might my project require geotechnical review?
Walla Walla County has a variety of geologic conditions ranging from expansive soils to seismic fault conditions. A geotechnical review can identify potential problems and ensure that you have incorporated proper engineering measures into your project design. In many cases, the State of Washington has mandated that you make specific measures a part of your design. The purpose of this process is to help you to protect your property, your neighbors, and yourself from the physical and economic injury that some geologic conditions can cause.

How long is my building permit valid for?
Permits do have term limitations. Large projects such as new residences and additions are valid for 180 days and can receive extensions for up to two years or the Building Officials discretion. Projects such as a deck, water heaters, re-siding or re-roof and similar permits are also valid for 180 days and may be eligible for extensions as well depending on the circumstance. In addition to the term limits associated with a permit, you must also obtain an approved inspection at least every 180 calendar days. This inspection must be able to demonstrate substantial progress in one or more of the major trades. If for any reason you are unable to have a valid progress inspection, you must request an extension "prior" to the expiration of your permit. All requests for extension must be submitted in written form and state the reason why you are requesting the extension. Failure to obtain an inspection or an extension will result in the expiration of your permit.  There are instances where you can renew your expired permit upon request and payment of a percentage of the original building permit fees based on the amount of work completed.

How do I get copies of building records for my property?
For more detailed records - particularly for construction since 1988- you may submit a public records request.  The form is located on the County website within the Public Records page.  Please note that there may be a fee associated with this work. You can also obtain information about any Planning files on your property. Often these files are lengthy and you may not want to pay to have the whole file reproduced. We recommend that you call the department @ 509-524-2610 or you may also search for building permit records and some planning records starting with 2008 on our eTRAKiT portal.  There are walk through instructions to help you find out if there are any records on your property; if so, then you can print view or print those documents from the eTRAKiT portal or you can submit your public records request.

What are your office hours?
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday: 8 am to 4 pm
Wednesday: 8 am to 3:00 pm
We are open through the lunch hour. 

Can I subdivide my property?
Numerous factors need to be considered when determining if a lot is able to be subdivided.  First, it must be demonstrated that subdividing it will create lots that will be in conformance with their respective land use density and zoning development standards (minimum lot size and lot width). 
Other agencies such as water and sewer providers should be contacted to determine if such services are available to a subdivided lot.  Other agencies like the County Environmental Health Department, County Public Works Department, and the Fire Marshal will also need to be contacted to discuss the feasibility of subdivision (and their requirements).  Given the various factors involved, please consider setting an appointment with staff to review requirements.  You can also go online to our website to review our subdivision regulations at:  www.walla-walla.co.us

How do I find my property lines?
This can be difficult, but we have a few tips:
1.           First, review your deed.  This is the only accurate description of your property.
2.           In rural areas, or in other areas where there may not be a regular lot pattern, you may have to reference an existing survey, or obtain a partial or full survey from a licensed land surveyor, or civil engineer.
3.           Fence lines are not necessarily a good indicator of property lines, and should not be relied upon for drawing plans and determining setbacks.
4.           If in doubt, hire a licensed land surveyor.  Depending on the type of project you are proposing, you may need to obtain a full or partial boundary survey of your property for submittal with a planning or building permit application. 

How can I find out about an easement on my property?
You can review your title report or search in the County Auditor’s office. 

Do I need a permit to trim or cut down a tree?
Generally, no.  But if the tree is located in a street right-of-way you will need to first contact the County Public Works Department at: (509) 524-2710.  
If it is located within a critical area or shoreline (e.g. creek, wetland, fish and wildlife area, buffer or protection zone, geologically hazardous area), you will likely need a permit.  Contact CDD to discuss removal of trees or vegetation within a critical area regulated under Chapter 18.08 of the County Code.

What do I need to do in order to have a well on my property?
A well permit is required.  Contact the County’s Environmental Health Department for requirements at: (509) 524-2650.
If your property is in an unincorporated high-density area (zoned for one or more residences per 10 acres), and your well will be drawing water from the shallow/gravel aquifer, you will be allowed up to 1,250 gallons per day of ground water for in-house domestic purposes only.  Please visit our department to pick up a packet that more extensively describes this requirement.  You may also call the Watershed Partnership at:  (509) 524-5216. 

A few Pointers for successfully submitting a permit application:
Check with a Planner in our office to verify your setbacks, and to see if there are any restrictions on your property prior to submitting your application.
Check with a building inspector if you have any particular design questions.  They can’t design it for you, but they can give you very good information.  This too could prevent any delays in the approval of your application.
Turn in your application for Addressing and Access (driveway) to County Public Works – 990 Navion Lane.  If you have questions, call 509-524-2710.
Turn in your application for Well and Septic to Environmental Health – 310 W Poplar St, Suite 114.  If you have questions, call 509-524-2650.
Make sure ALL the blanks are filled in.  They wouldn’t be there if we didn’t need the information.  If you have a question about the application ask the Permit Coordinator, the Building Inspector, or the Planner, and anyone of them can assist you.
Check off the items on the checklist.  It is there to help you organize your application.  If you don’t include something that is on the checklist it could hold up approval of your application.
Your parcel number can be found on your property tax statement.  It is 12 digits long.  If you can’t find it, call the Assessor’s office at 509-524-2560 and they can find it for you.
If you have a commercial project, you should have a pre-application meeting, – Contact a Planner to set one up.  Residential projects don’t typically need a pre-application meeting unless the project is not typical.

Who is responsible for monitoring violations of the County Zoning Regulations and Nuisance Ordinances?
The Code Compliance Officer investigates suspected violations.  After each investigation in which the Code Compliance Officer determines that a violation exists, the officer issues a Notice of Violation and Order to abate to the property owner. 

What happens after they issue a notice?
What happens depends on the type of violation. If the officer finds that someone is in violation, the officer issues an abatement order. The officer then discusses a reasonable timeline to abate the violation with the owner, typically 10 – 90 days, depending on severity.
If not abated by that time, the Officer may issue citations for public nuisance violations. For zoning violations, the Officer may refer the matter to the County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The Prosecuting Attorney may file suit against the violator. However, if the officer believes the problem to be a civil matter, then you may be told to contact an attorney to assist you. 

Can I appeal a notice or abatement order?
You cannot appeal a notice that you are violating zoning regulations.  You can appeal an abatement order by filing a written request for a hearing with the officer who ordered the abatement. Who considers the appeals? The County’s Hearing Examiner hears appeals involving violations of the County’s codes.

Can I report a violation to the County’s Code Compliance Officer?
Anyone can report what they believe to be a code violation.  You can report a violation in writing or by email to the department or through our website @ https://etrakit.co.walla-walla.wa.us/etrakit3/CRM/issue.aspx.  

Can I report a violation anonymously?
You can request that your name be withheld from the person violating the code.  However, should that person file a public record request your name may not be redacted from the record. 

Whom do I call if I have questions?
Call the Code Compliance Officer at (509) 524-2616. If the Officer is out of the office or on inspections, you may request that the Code Compliance Officer return your call.  Phone messages are checked every weekday.