Have you been interested in finding steady additional income, or moving a family member onto your property while maintaining your privacy? If you’re in Clark County, adding an Accessory Dwelling Unit might be for you. What is it? Also known an ADU, an Accessory Dwelling Unit is a secondary housing unit that is built on a residential lot.

Given that an ADU’s purpose is to serve as a residence, it must include facilities for sleeping, cooking, and sanitation. As long as such facilities are provided, an ADU can take many structural forms, including garage conversions, basement conversions, additions to an existing house, and can even be built as a separate unit detached from the primary residence, when the code allows.

In Washington’s Clark County, most urban zones currently allow for attached and detached ADUs. Rural zones currently allow attached ADUs but do not allow detached Accessory Dwelling Units. If you’d like a detached ADU but live in a rural zone, there may be a solution to this problem.

If you have a property in rural zoning and are interested in moving a family member onto your property, an exception for a temporary dwelling can be made if you meet one of the following standards called out in Clark County code section 40.260.210.

  • A person who is to receive from or administer to a resident of the principal dwelling, continuous care and assistance necessitated by advanced age or infirmity, the need for which is documented by a physician’s medical statement.
  • A caretaker, hired hand or other similar full-time employee working on the lot, tract or parcel in connection with an agricultural or related use of the premises.
  • Relatives over sixty-two (62) years of age with an adjusted household gross income, as defined on IRS Form 1040 or its equivalent, which is at or below fifty percent (50%) of the median family income for Clark County (as adjusted), who are related by blood or marriage to a resident of the principal dwelling.

If you meet any one of the requirements listed above, Clark County will allow a temporary placement of a mobile home OR modular unit.

Here at Wolf Industries, we’ve helped many families place our modular Tiny Homes through this hardship program. We’re happy to help you determine if you can place one of our Tiny Homes through this program as well.

The permitting process can seem daunting. After years of permitting projects in Clark County we’re happy to share some of what we’ve learned. Here’s a basic outline of what you need to be aware of before you begin the permitting process.

Permitting Can Be Difficult – Do Your Research

You’ll need to know your property’s zoning and read through the associated code to determine if your project is allowable. Clark County has a comprehensive data base online to help you find your property’s information. The Clark County Geographic Information Services is a wonderful tool and will allow to you look up information you need to determine if your project is feasible.

Here, you can find information like your property’s zoning with a link to the associated code. Tax and sales history can be found as well as the fire district and sewer and water purveyors.

You can also find important documents like a survey of the parcel, if one’s been completed, and other recorded documents like the most recent vesting deed and covenants recorded with the land.

Every property will have different documents on file.

Vancouver Washington GIS Lookup

Most importantly, you can find the information needed for permitting purposes; the property’s parcel number, zoning, lot size, environmental constraints or other issues you need to be aware of, as well as the permit history for the parcel on the Clark County GIS app. While the GIS tool is tremendously useful occasionally you may need to look into other sources.

This may sound overwhelming, because it can be! If you need help to determine the feasibility of your Tiny House Dreams, please reach out to our office! We have experts available to help you.

Finding a Tiny Home Builder in Clark County

It’s important to find a builder who knows your jurisdiction’s building code and can complete your project to meet those standards. Other things to consider are the quality of materials used, efficiency of their processes; do they get their jobs completed in a timely manner, are they affordable and priced fairly? Do they have knowledge of your jurisdiction’s zoning code and land use requirements to help you determine if your project is feasible and permittable? Can they handle the permitting process for you; create a plot plan, stormwater plan and erosion control plan that will be required by the county. Do they have enough experience to give you peace of mind and take the stress of a building project off your shoulders rather than create additional stress for you? Do they have positive reviews and a good reputation?

Forms and Fees

You’ll need to find the forms required for your permit applications and associated fees; in most cases these can downloaded from the community development section of the Clark County website.
It’s important to remember that you need to determine the correct permit type to apply for, and associated applications to complete. The type of construction and use of the structure will determine what permit type and applications are required.

Clark County Permit Center

It’s also important to review the submittal and plot plan checklists provided by the county. These checklists outline all the county requirements when you submit your application. It’s very important to show up with all required documents when you apply for your permit in the Clark County Permit Center. If you are missing information, you run the risk of being sent away without being allowed to submit your permit application. To help you budget, find the fees associated with your permit on the application forms.

Currently, for residential projects, you can expect to submit the following documents in Clark County:

  • 2 Plot Plans
  • Stormwater Plan Application and Plot Plan
  • Erosion Control Application and Plot Plan
  • Current Owner’s Recorded Deed
  • Water Availability Letter (or apply for WAVE and Septic Release with the Clark County Public Health Deptartment to connect t existing well and septic system)
  • Geo Tech Report (if required)
  • Wildland Urban Interface Form (if required)
  • Building Plans, 2 sets
  • Energy Code Worksheet

Your project may have different requirements, depending on the specific property, scope of work and type of construction. You can always ask question at the Clark County Permit Center. But be prepared to wait for you opportunity to speak with a permit technician. The Permit Center is a busy place! We’ve experienced the wait time is typically 1 hour and can be up to 2 hours when busy.

How to Apply for a Tiny Home Permit

In Clark County there are two steps to the application process. Once you’ve done your research and collected the required documents, you’re ready to apply!
First, you’ll need to go online to complete an application through the Clark County LMS system. This will require you to create an LMS account if you don’t already have one. You’ll need the information details regarding your project that you used to complete your paper forms as well as a few other pieces of information. This information can be found on your builder’s plans and the Clark County GIS page for your specific property.

Second, you’ll apply in the Clark County Permit Center. You’ll need to have all your paper applications filled and signed and take all the required documents with you. Make sure to take a check or credit card with you to pay the fees due at application submittal. You should be aware that the county charges a 3% fee to use a credit card.

Be sure to use the checklists the county makes available. Check your plot plan for all the required information and bring all the required documents with you. If anything is missing, it’s likely they will not accept your application submittal.

The Permit Review Process

There will be several reviews your application will go through at the Clark County Building Department. Every project can vary due to the scope of work, environmental constraints, geological hazards and a variety of other requirements that may be unique to your property. The review process typically takes anywhere between 4-6 weeks. During the busy season, March-October, or due to additional review requirements unique to your property, the review process can take up to 12 weeks. Once the permit reviews are complete and received their approval, …this is what everyone excitedly anticipates…you get your building permits! Once your permits are ready to issue, the building department will notify you via email.

You can pick up the permit in the Clark County Permit Center located at 1300 Franklin St, Vancouver, WA 98660.

The process can seem long and tedious, because, well…it is! But it’s worth the effort in the end. Once you have your permits in hand, the fun begins. You or your contractor can start the work, call for inspections and see your dream come to life!