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No, a building permit is not required if it is not supporting a surcharge and is less than 4-feet in height and meets the offset of 1:1 ratio. IRC Section 105, Reference Bulletin #8.
Other regulations may apply; Ask a Permit Technician.
A Fence greater than 6-feet high requires a building permit and must meet setbacks. The height is measured from the top of the fence to the ground immediately adjacent to the fence, PCC 18A.15.040 B.2.d and IRC Section 105, Reference Bulletin #8.Other regulations may apply: Ask a Permit Technician.
Any bulkhead, no matter what size, is regulated by the Shoreline Regulations. A bulkhead greater than 4-feet in height, measured from finished grade, including anything below ground, also requires a building permit and environmental review (SEPA). A shoreline exemption can be granted when the sole purpose of a bulkhead is to protect an existing single-family residence, and appurtenant structures, from loss or damage by erosion (WAC 173.27.040(2)(c)), and for normal maintenance and repair of the bulkhead (WAC 173.27.040(2)(b)). In the case of an emergency situation, Per WAC 173.27.040(2)(d), a bulkhead may be granted written shoreline exemption for construction necessary to protect property from damage by the elements.