Friday, June 17, 2016
SLO [San Luis Obispo] County grand jury says minor use permit an oxymoron
After investigating how the San Luis Obispo County Planning and Building Department processes minor use permits, the 2015-16 grand jury concluded the title can be considered an oxymoron and steps taken by the department when issuing such permits are complex and outdated.
The grand jury issued its report, "Minor Use Permits: An Oxymoron," on Tuesday, concluding the process for issuing minor use permits, a type of land use permit, is based largely on the county's general plan. That plan was written in 1980.
The planning document has been amended more than 140 times in the past 36 years, making it "even more complex and confusing," the jurors wrote, also pointing to the need for more comprehensive public notification when large projects are being considered for minor use permits.
"This is a discretionary permit, acted on by a Planning Department hearing officer, allowing specific land uses," the report reads. "The title of minor use permit can be an oxymoron. Major projects are sometimes incorporated into the minor use permit process."
Webster's defines an oxymoron as "a combination of contradictory or incongruous words."
The county sees a large variety of projects — everything from adding small decks on private homes to constructing new housing developments — issued minor use permits every year, and the Planning Department uses a discretionary process to determine which projects are approved, according to the report.
Jurors also believe the county should require that a dollar amount be attached to permit applications, which isn't currently done. Without costs attached to minor use permit applications, the public can't accurately gauge the size and impact of a project, the jurors wrote.
"Virtually the same process is being used whether the permit is for a small deck on a residence or a multihome development," said Greg Schlitz, grand jury foreperson. "Adding an estimated project cost would be helpful."
The grand jury investigated the county's process for issuing minor use permits after receiving a citizen's complaint concerning the notification process, specifically the process used to notify the public of a pending project or event.
The report can be viewed online at http://slocourts.net/grand_jury/reports.
June 15, 2016
Santa Maria Times
By April Charlton