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There are a couple of reasons. The first reason is current State and County laws require the County Engineer approve any connection to the County road system. Many existing driveways do not have a driveway approach permit either because they were built before there was a permit process or because they were built without approval. The second reason is for situations where vehicle usage will increase; the County requires the driveway approach be brought up to current standards.
If you are not changing the grade, drainage, or width, generally you do not need a permit. If the driveway is located in a critical area, a permit may be required. Every parcel in Pierce County is unique; contact Development Engineering before you start for requirements. Any work within the County right-of-way does require approval from Planning & Public Works.