The Planning Commission consists of five members, appointed by the Board of Supervisors, representing each of the supervisorial districts within the County. Each Commissioner holds office for a term of four (4) years and/or until the appointment and qualification of a successor. The Commission considers and takes action on land use applications including parcel maps, conditional use permits, variances, site plan reviews, appeals, etc. The Commission also makes recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on items such as rezoning, general plan amendment, text amendment, and subdivision map applications, where the Board must take the final action.
The Commission typically meets at 6:00 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month. If there are a sufficient number of items scheduled, a second meeting will be held on the third Tuesday of the month. Meetings are held at the Resource Management Agency (200 W 4th Street, Suite 3100, Madera) or the Coarsegold Community Center (35600 Highway 41,
Coarsegold). The location of each meeting is based on where the majority of agenda items are located.
Please click on the below for the Planning Commission's past and current agendas:
The Planning Commission Takes Action on the Following Applications
General Plan Amendments
The General Plan is the long term blueprint, or constitution, for land use and development within the County. Nearly all development proposals which require approval by the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors must be found consistent with the General Plan. Therefore, for example, if a residential subdivision is proposed on a parcel that is designated in the plan for agricultural uses, a general plan amendment must be filed to redesignated the effected area.
State law allows the General Plan to be amended four times per year. January, April, July, and October have been set as Planning Commission hearing dates for amendments. The actions taken by the Planning Commission with regard to general plan amendments serve as recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. The Board must take final action to amend the General Plan.
The zoning ordinance defines what specific land uses are allowed on a property and what development standards apply. All development and construction projects must be in compliance with the zoning ordinance. A change to a parcel’s zoning designation, referred to as a rezoning, can be applied for at any time as long as the proposal is consistent with the General Plan; if not, the general plan amendment procedure must be followed as outlined above. As with general plan amendments, actions taken by the Planning Commission on rezoning applications serve as recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. The Board must take final action to change the zoning.
Conditional Use Permits
The zoning ordinance outlines a category of uses in each zone district which are allowed only through the conditional use permit process. These uses must be specifically authorized by the Planning Commission, on a case by case basis, after it is determined that the use is compatible with the surrounding area. As the name implies, specific conditions, time limits, and other project modifications may be required in conjunction with a conditional use permit. Planning Commission decisions on use permits (approval or denial) are final unless appealed to the Board of Supervisors within 15 days.
For situations where an applicant feels the property development standards outlined in the zoning ordinance should not be applied because of special circumstances, a variance may be applied for. For instance, if the zoning ordinance limits the maximum height of a home to 35 feet, and an owner feels that site conditions require a home to be taller, a variance may be requested. Variances may be approved if all of the following findings can be made:
- There are exceptional or extraordinary circumstances or conditions applying to the land, building or use referred to in the application, which circumstances or conditions do not apply generally to land, buildings, and/or uses in the same zoning district.
- The granting of the application is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of substantial property rights of the petitioner.
- The granting of the application will not, under the circumstances of this particular case, materially affect adversely the health or safety of persons residing or working in the neighborhood of the property of the applicant and will not, in the circumstances of this particular case, be materially detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to the property or improvements in that neighborhood.
- The granting of the variance shall not constitute a grant of special privilege inconsistent with the limitations upon other properties in the vicinity and zone in which subject property is situated.
- Because of special circumstances, applicable to subject property, including size, shape, topography, location or surroundings, the strict application of the zoning ordinance would deprive the subject property of privileges enjoyed by other properties in the vicinity and under identical zone classifications.
Variance approvals or denials by the Commission are final unless appealed.
These are divisions of land normally into five or more parcels. Subdivisions go through three stages: 1) Preliminary; 2) Tentative, and; 3) Final Maps. The preliminary map is processed by the Subdivision Committee. The Subdivision Committee consists of staff representatives of the following departments: Engineering Department, Environmental Health Department, Planning Department, Assessor's Office, Fire Department, and the Road Department. Decisions or recommendations of the Subdivision Committee are subject to appeal to the Planning Commission. In most cases these appeals, variance requests, etc., are heard at the same time as the tentative map. The tentative map is heard by the Planning Commission at a public hearing and if it is approved it is automatically forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for final hearing and decision. If the map is denied by the Commission, that decision is final unless appealed to the Board of Supervisors. Final maps go directly to the Board of Supervisors for review (no public hearing required) and are not heard by the Planning Commission.
Parcel maps are normally divisions of land into four or fewer parcels which are processed by the Parcel Map Committee (Road, Environmental Health, Engineering, Assessor, Planning, and Fire Departments). State law requires that surrounding property owners be notified of a land division and hearing. At this hearing, the Parcel Map Committee may approve, deny, or place conditions on the parcel map. Parcel Map Committee decisions are final unless appealed to the Planning Commission and/or the Board of Supervisors.
All projects reviewed by the Planning Commission are subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), unless they fall under an exemption. As part of this process, projects are circulated to federal, state, and local review agencies, and then evaluated by the County Development Review Committee to determine what type of environmental document should be prepared. An initial study is prepared to summarize the conclusions of commenting agencies and to formally address the potential for environmental effects in several categories. One of three types of environmental documents are typically required.
For projects where it can be determined that no significant environmental effects will be generated, a “negative declaration” is prepared. Alternatively, if it is found that potentially significant impacts may occur, but that the impacts can be eliminated or reduced to less-than-significant levels if the applicant agrees to make changes or incorporate conditions into the project, a “mitigated negative declaration” is prepared. Both negative declarations and mitigated negative declarations are prepared by Planning Department staff.
For projects where there is substantial evidence that significant environmental effects would be generated, but because of the size, scale, or nature of the project it is not immediately possible to identify and incorporate changes to reduce impacts to less than significant levels, an “environmental impact report” (EIR) must be prepared. An EIR provides detailed analysis of the environmental setting, identifies and describes impacts and mitigation measures, and evaluates project alternatives. EIRs are prepared by an independent consultant retained by the County, and are normally prepared only for large scale or complex projects.
Environmental documents prepared for projects heard by the Planning Commission must be certified as adequate by the Commission before a decision can be made on the project. If the project covered by the document must also be heard by the Board, the EIR will also by forwarded to the Board for certification.