SLO County Grand Jury takes Planning Department's minor use permits to task



A new report by the San Luis Obispo County grand jury takes issue with some of the central pieces to the permitting process for smaller projects in the county.

The report, titled “Minor Use Permits: An Oxymoron” and released June 7, is the first report issued in the 2015-2016 session of the volunteer citizen’s group. It recommends the county update its general plan, which was written in 1980 and has since seen more than 140 amendments. The report says those amendments can be confusing for those trying to follow it, and updates should incorporate those amendments into the plan to make it more user friendly.

A minor use permit is required for any project that may cause concerns to the surrounding neighborhood. That can include small residential projects; additions to larger dwellings; or multi-family, commercial, and industrial projects.

Projects that could have a more significant impact or require a more specific approval process must apply for a conditional use permit. 

The report suggested that some projects seeking a minor use permit—those in Tier III, which includes multi-family, commercial, and industrial projects—should be more thoroughly noticed and receive a full public hearing. That would ensure that larger projects would receive the necessary public review, even though they qualify for a minor use permit, the report says.

In addition, while the county currently complies with state laws for public noticing requirements, the report recommends the county up those standards to include more thorough noticing. The report also recommends that the applicant pay for all noticing costs and that permit fees pay for the entire permitting process.

The county has 60 days to issue a response. Planning and Building Department Director Jim Bergman said that his department, as well as the county administrator’s office, is reviewing the report, and will bring their recommended response to the Board of Supervisors. The board will have final say over the county’s response and any ensuing actions.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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