What Is Allowed in a Zone?

Zoning - Answers

The following sources of information should be able to answer most zoning-related questions. Answers to zoning-related questions can also be obtained by using this form or calling the Development Center Information Line at (253) 798-3739.

Pierce County Zoning Code

The Pierce County zoning code (Title 18A) is available online as a PDF.

Online Zoning Information

To determine the zoning of a parcel you must know the parcel number or the site address. If you have this information, you can use About My Property online, this form or you can call the Permit Information Hotline at (253)798-3739.

Allowed Uses
Allowable uses are grouped by community plan and then by Urban and Rural zones within the zoning code.

Use Categories & Descriptions

Outside Community Plan Areas

Alderton McMillin Community Plan

Anderson/Ketron Islands Community Plan

Browns Point/Dash Point Community Plan

Frederickson Community Plan 

Gig Harbor Peninsula Community Plan 

Graham Community Plan

Key Peninsula Community Plan

Mid County Community Plan

Parkland Spanaway Midland Community Plan

South Hill Community Plan

Upper Nisqually Community Plan



Common Zoning-Related Topics

Accessory Dwelling Units

  • Definition
    • Accessory dwelling unit' means a second dwelling unit added to, created within, or detached from a single-family detached dwelling for use as a completely independent or semi-independent unit with provisions for cooking, eating, sanitation, and sleeping.
  • Purpose
    • Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are intended to increase the supply of affordable and independent housing for a variety of households, increase home and personal security, provide supplemental earnings for people with limited incomes, and increase residential densities. This should occur by utilizing the existing infrastructure and community resources throughout the County while protecting the existing character of single-family neighborhoods. See Chapter 18A.36.
  • Application
    • The owner occupant shall apply for a Building Permit for an ADU. A complete application form must demonstrate that all size thresholds and design standards are met.
  • General Requirements
    • ADUs are only allowed accessory to existing single-family residential structures. Only one ADU is allowed per lot of record. ADUs within the Urban Growth Area may be no more than 1,000 square feet in size. ADUs outside the Urban Growth Area may be no more than 1,250 square feet in size. Other design requirements also apply to ADUs, please see Section 18A.36.070 L.

Building Setbacks

  • Definition
    • The minimum required distance between any structure and a specified line such as a lot, public or private right-of-way, easement, future street right-of-way as identified through an official control or buffer line that is required to remain free of structures unless otherwise provided herein.
  • Standards
    • Setback standards are provided in the Density and Dimensions tables for each community plan area and for the areas outside of all the community plan areas. The tables are located at the end of each respective zoning code chapter.
    • Additional Setback Standards including how setbacks are measured, yard designations, setback exceptions and other setback standards are specified in the Residential Density and Lot Dimension Standards, Chapter 18A.15.


  • Definition
    • Density refers to the number of dwelling units allowed per acre. A density range, Base, Minimum and Maximum, is provided for all Urban Zones except for Employment Center zones. A range of density, Base and a Maximum, is provided for all Rural Zones except for Rural Center zones.
  • Requirements

Height Limitations

  • Definition
    • 'Structure height' is the vertical distance from the average elevation of the finished grade on each wall of a building to the top of a flat or shed roof, or mansard roof, and the average distance between the bottom of the eaves to the highest point of a pitched, hipped, gambrel, or gable roof.
  • Restrictions
    • Structural heights are restricted based upon zone classification. Height limitations are specified in the Density and Dimension Tables provided for the areas not included in a community plan, and for each community plan area. The tables are located at the end of each respective chapter in the zoning code. Special height requirements apply to fences, retaining walls, and bulkheads. These special requirements are specified in Table 18A.15.040-3, Height.

Home Occupations

  • Definition
    • 'Home occupation' means any business activity carried on within the principal residence or within a permitted accessory structure which does not have to meet fire and building code regulations for business or industrial occupancy.
  • Where Allowed
    • Home occupations are allowed as an accessory use to all single-family residences subject to the standards specified in Section 18A.36.070 K.

Nonconforming Development

  • Definition
    • 'Nonconforming' means a building, structure, parcel of land, or lot that was legal when brought into existence but does not meet the current comprehensive plan or development regulation requirements.
  • Standards


  • Definition
    • 'Variance' means an adjustment to the bulk standards (i.e. setback or height requirements) of the zoning regulation. A variance may not be granted to vary from restricted or permitted uses or required density for any zone classification. Variances can be processed either administratively or through the Hearing Examiner process depending on the extent of the variance request. Variances are typically used to request reductions in setbacks, increase in height, and other deviations from bulk standards.
  • Review Criteria
    • In order for a variance to be approved, it must meet the criteria specified in Section 18A.75.040.