Current Critical Areas Ordinance

Critical areas regulations help to preserve the natural environment, maintain fish and wildlife habitat, protect drinking water and reduce exposure to risks, such as landslides or flooding.  Critical areas are mapped on the City's GIS portal.  The City regulates these critical areas in its critical areas ordinance (BIMC 16.20):

  • Areas with a critical recharging effect on aquifers used for potable water
  • Fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas, including streams
  • Geologically hazardous areas
  • Wetlands

Long Range Critical Areas Ordinance Year 1 Review and Assessment

It has been a year since the City's updated critical areas ordinance (CAO) became effective.  The 2018 CAO update included significant additions and revisions to regulatory and permitting requirements.  Staff are now doing a review and assessment of the CAO to review ways in which it is working well and ways in which it is ineffective or difficult to use.  A "do-over" of the CAO is not proposed.  Staff anticipates any proposed revisions will be specific and targeted rather than broad or policy-oriented.  The review will not include revisiting best available science or revising specific standards (e.g., buffers).

The CAO review is currently in the data gathering phase.  Staff will be reviewing the code and gathering user input throughout April and May.

We want to hear from you!  You may provide input by emailing

Next steps are outlined in the Workplan and Timeline.