The Ins and Outs of Outbuildings in Clark County, WA

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Ins and Outs of Outbuildings in Clark County, WA 


The Ins and Outs of Outbuildings


Many of our clients looking for more “elbow room for the soul”™ often ask about the possibility of adding structures to a specific property. The request varies from building a shop, a barn, a greenhouse, to an accessory dwelling unit or ADU. Collectively known as outbuildings, they are a popular amenity for those who choose to live in rural areas.

When it comes to building anything, it’s extremely important to do your research. Things to consider include, easements, setbacks, placement of drain fields, environmental concerns, zoning, and building permits specific to a lot or acreage. 

On our acreage in Camas, we have a combination tool/tractor shed. At 200 sq ft, it didn’t require a permit, but the site placement had to adhere to established zoning setbacks. We also hired a licensed and bonded professional to install lights and electrical outlets.


Currently, it’s relatively easy to add an ADU in certain urban areas. But, they are generally not allowed in rural areas. Unless you attach it to an existing single family structure.  However, there are some creative ways to get around this rule. For example, in some rural areas you can build a studio, as long as there is no cooking equipment in the structure. 


Adding a fence, deck, or woodshed also requires some homework. No permit is required as long as a fence is under 7 feet and set on the owner’s side of the property line.  Due to safety concerns, there are very specific guidelines for building a deck in Clark County, WA.  And most decks require a permit. As for woodsheds, gazebos, and play structures, as long as they are smaller than 200 sq ft, no permit is required. 


However, as with all structures, locating anything within a wetland, habitat, or shoreline area, will require land use review. One of our buyers buyer was in the process of buying a lovely home on the Washougal River. Once we determined she could not build a fence in the backyard for her dog, she had to choose a different property.  


There isn’t one simple answer to the question of whether an outbuilding can be added to a property.  The good news is, we have the resources to help you determine the ins and outs of outbuildings.  

Filed under: Lifestyles