Rural acreage, especially in remote areas, is desired by many for its remarkable scenery and serenity. However, there are many legal and geographical issues that can directly affect rural property in Klickitat County. Before you buy or develop land, it is important to research these items:
1.1 Permits & Approvals
Construction of dwellings and most buildings require Klickitat County issued building permits and inspections prior to use or occupancy. The permitting process not only helps assure you that your proposed project is in conformance with the applicable state construction codes, but also that it is consistent with other requirements regulating property divisions and uses such as setbacks, minimum frontage, potable water supply, sewage disposal systems and other activities that may require a permit. Also beware that not all existing dwellings have been permitted. Check with the Klickitat County Building Department for permit requirements before you purchase. Follow this link for a simple flow chart for site development permitting requirements.
1.2 Not All Lots Are Buildable
There are many segregated land parcels that are not legal lots in the sense that a building permit can be issued. You must check with the Klickitat County Planning Department to verify that a piece of land can be built upon.
Easements may require you to allow construction of roads, power lines, water lines, sewer lines, etc., across your land. Check these issues carefully.
1.4 Mineral Rights
Many property owners do not own the mineral rights under their property. Owners of mineral rights have the ability to change the surface characteristics in order to extract their minerals. It is very important to know what minerals may be located under the land and who owns them. Much of the rural land in Klickitat County can be used for mining, subject to current land use zoning standards. Be aware that adjacent mining uses may expand and could cause what you consider negative impacts.
1.5 Property Plat
You may be provided with a plat of your property, but verify that the land has been surveyed and property corners placed by a licensed surveyor to assure that the plat is accurate.
1.6 Gorge Commission Permits
It is likely that regulations within the Columbia River Gorge area will be more restrictive than the County when it comes to land use. The Klickitat County Planning Department can identify which lands fall within the Gorge Management Area.
1.7 Property Lines
Fences that separate properties can be misaligned with the property lines. A survey of the land is the best way to confirm the location of your property lines. Klickitat County does not verify the location of property lines or become involved in property line disputes.
Many subdivisions and planned unit developments have covenants that limit the use of the property. It is important to obtain a copy of the covenants (or confirm that there are none) and make sure that you can live with those rules. Also, a lack of covenants can cause problems between neighbors. Klickitat County does not become involved in the enforcement of covenants.
1.9 Homeowners Associations
Homeowners associations are often formed to take care of common elements such as roads, open spaces, etc. A dysfunctional homeowners association or poor covenants could cause problems for you and even involve you in expensive litigation.
Dues are almost always a requirement of a homeowners association. The by-laws of the homeowners association will tell you how the organization operates and how the dues are set.
1.11 Future Development
Scenic, undeveloped, surrounding properties may not remain as they appear today. You can check with the Klickitat County Planning Department to find out what the comprehensive plan designation for a particular area is, how neighboring properties are currently zoned and what future developments may be in the planning stages.
1.12 Conditional Use Permits
Conditional Use Permits are required for uses not specified in zoning areas.
Water rights are an important issue in Klickitat County. The water flowing in creeks or streams bordering or crossing your property may belong to someone else. You cannot assume that because the water flows across your property you can use it. Water rights that are sold with the property may not give you the right to use the water from any stream or other source crossing your land without coordinating with the water district, a neighbor who also uses the water, or Department of Health or Washington Department of Ecology. Other users may have senior rights to the water that may limit your use or require you to pay for the oversizing or other improvements to the source.
1.14 Water Right Purchasing
It is also important to make sure that any water rights you purchase with the land will provide enough water to maintain agriculture such as fruit trees, pastures, gardens or livestock.
Stormwater flows through most low areas in the County at some time or another. If you build in these low areas you may be flooded. If you fill in the low areas you may be unintentionally relocating the floodwaters that could cause problems for others. This type of action could lead to private civil actions in court.
1.16 Flowing & Standing Water
Flowing and standing water can be a hazard, especially to young children. Before you decide to locate your home near an active creek or stream, consider the possible danger to your family.
1.17 Natural Water Area Regulation
Many creeks, streams, rivers and wetlands are regulated by either the Klickitat County Shorelines Ordinance and/or the Klickitat County Critical Areas Ordinance. These regulations establish setbacks and buffer zones adjacent to these various bodies of water. Natural vegetation cannot be disturbed in these areas. If you are contemplating development on property near water, marsh, or other wet areas be sure to check with Klickitat County Planning Department before commencing any work.
1.18 A Nuisance Ordinance
A Nuisance Ordinance has been established in Klickitat County. This allows the County to require removal of junk cars, abandoned mobile homes, piles of debris and other nuisances that shall endanger the life, limb, health, morals, property, safety or welfare of the general public.