November 21, 2018

Specific Plan

WHAT IS A SPECIFIC PLAN?

A specific plan is a regulatory tool that local governments use to guide development in a localized area and to systematically implement the general plan. A specific plan is intended as a more detailed development plan than is a general plan.

WHAT DOES A SPECIFIC PLAN LOOK LIKE?

According to state law, a specific plan must be in the form of a map and a written text. For ease of administering the specific plan, Kern County requires that a specific plan be done in a format that is similar to other specific plans in Kern County.

WHAT INFORMATION DOES IT CONTAIN?

State law (Government Code Section 65450 et seq.) states that a specific plan must include the following information: (1) the distribution, location, and extent of land uses, including open space, within the area covered by the plan; (2) the proposed distribution, location, and extent and intensity of major components of public and private transportation, sewage, water, drainage, solid waste disposal, energy, and other essential facilities proposed to be located within the area covered by the plan and needed to support the land uses described in the plan; (3) standards and criteria by which development will proceed, and standards for the conservation, development, and utilization of natural resources, where applicable; (4) a program of implementation measures including regulation, programs, public works projects, and financing measures necessary to carry out 1, 2, and 3, above; and (5) a statement of the relationship of the specific plan to the adopted general plan.

In simple terms, a specific plan will set forth goals, objectives, policies, and programs for development for the area within which they apply.

WHAT DETERMINES IF MY DEVELOPMENT IS SUBJECT TO A SPECIFIC PLAN?

In some instances, a developer may choose to prepare a specific plan simply because he finds it desirable to have his development be subject to a specific plan because of some practical reason, such as financing, marketing, or administration.

In other instances, the authority to require the preparation of a specific plan was delegated to local governments by the state legislature. Strictly speaking, the responsibility for determining the need for a specific plan rests with the Kern County Board of Supervisors in the context of a public hearing. However, the Kern County Planning Department has an advisory role in the decision.

HOW CAN I DETERMINE IF I NEED A SPECIFIC PLAN?

Prior to accepting an application for a development project, the Planning Department typically suggests to a developer whether or not the preparation of a specific plan is either warranted or required under state law.

In those instances where county staff suggests to a developer that a specific plan is warranted, the reason is usually that the customary methods of regulating the development–the General Plan and Zoning Ordinance–are inadequate to deal with the nature, scope, or intensity of a development proposal.

A specific plan may also be required in order to comply with provisions of the Kern County General Plan. For instance, on the map of the Land Use, Open Space, and Conservation Element of the Kern County General Plan, you may notice areas that are outlined and have a Map Code 4.3 printed on them. Those areas are committed by the Kern County Board of Supervisors to an unspecified level of development. Generally speaking, however, intensified development cannot take place in those areas until the Board of Supervisors approves a specific plan of development for the area.

HOW DO I GO ABOUT PREPARING A SPECIFIC PLAN?

It is suggested that anyone preparing a specific plan in Kern County consult Appendix D of the Kern County General Plan for particulars of how a specific plan should be done in Kern County. If you will be doing the preparation of the plan yourself, it is suggested that you review specific plans that have already been adopted for properties in Kern County. The staff of the Planning Department can show you examples of projects that may be similar to yours, and from which you may be able to draw ideas.

If the preparation of the specific plan is beyond your abilities or knowledge, it is suggested that you contact a professional planning consultant or civil engineer to do the work.

HOW DO I START THE SPECIFIC PLAN PROCESS?

After you have been formally advised that your project warrants the preparation of a specific plan, or after you have chosen to prepare a specific plan, it will be necessary for you to work closely with the staff of the Planning Department. Considerable county staff time is frequently involved in preliminary meetings and in review of your work, so it will be necessary for you to pay an advance retaining fee to this Department.

HOW LONG SHOULD I EXPECT THE PRCOESSING TO TAKE?

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that an environmental study be prepared for a project such as a specific plan. The environmental study may take the form of a Negative Declaration or an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

In cases where a Negative Declaration is required, processing time is likely to be about four (4) months. Where an Environmental Impact Report is required, applicants should allow ten (10) or twelve (12) months to process an application.

It may be possible to work on the environmental study concurrently with preparation of the specific plan in some instances. The formal environmental review period cannot commence until an acceptable draft of the specific plan has been completed.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Following environmental review, a public hearing will be scheduled before the Kern County Planning Commission. The Planning Commission will consider the proposed specific plan, a staff report, public testimony, and any other information pertinent to the specific plan. At the conclusion of the public hearing, the Commission will formulate a recommendation to the Kern County Board of Supervisors.

After the Planning Commission hearing(s), a public hearing by the Kern County Board of Supervisors will be scheduled to consider the recommendation of the Planning Commission and adoption of the specific plan. The Board considers the recommendation of the Commission and any public testimony. The Board is not required to concur with the recommendation of the Planning Commission.

FORM 713 (1/2013)

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