RMA to Improve Efficiency of Planning Process

June 6, 2011

Residents seeking to implement planning projects in Tulare County should have any easier time doing so thanks to a new project review committee, Resource Management Agency (RMA) officials announced.

RMA officials said the purpose of the Tulare County Project Review Committee is to review development project applications prior to formal submittal to help identify potential issues and guide customers through the process.

The Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted on March 22, 2011 to establish the Project Review Committee, which includes the Public Works Director, Planning Director, County Health Officer, County Fire Chief, the County Building and Housing Manager, and other designees. The Project Review Committee officially began reviewing applications on May 23.

“This committee will help the project review process go more smoothly and save both time and money for the development community,” said Ben Kimball, RMA Chief Planner. “The applicant and their agents will have an opportunity to hear staff’s concerns and suggestions, as well as seek answers to their questions regarding the projects.”

Kimball said the pre-application review will provide information on relevant general or specific plan policies, zoning and subdivision regulations, development standards, building and fire codes, and procedures related to projects pursuant to the adopted County Zoning Ordinance and policies.

Kimball said the committee will review development proposals through a mandatory pre-application process. Examples of proposals include: changes of zone; development agreements; general plan amendments and variations; preliminary site plans; special use permits; tentative parcel maps, and more.

The cost of the process is $750. RMA officials said the up-front cost should save the applicant money because the pre-application process should lower the amount of staff hours charged to projects with hourly rate fees and later flat fees will be reduced to reflect the lower costs.

Kimball said the intent of this process was to accomplish the following goals:

- Reduce time spent by staff holding multiple meetings that are similar in nature and intent, consolidating discretionary approval into one body.
- Allow applicants to get an early response from staff on their development proposals, prior to the formal submittal of an application. 
- Give applicants a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their proposals early in the process and a clear understanding of the subsequent steps in the process.
- Resolve issues and concerns early in the process to prevent them from becoming larger problems.
- Save applicants time and money by developing a clear perspective of the complete process and staff expectations.
- Save applicants time and money by identifying projects that are problematic or unlikely to get approved early in the process before significant amounts of money are spent.
- Improve the efficiency of project processing by staff by having potential project issues clearly identified up front.
- Reduce time spent by staff on projects that are likely to be withdrawn or denied, maximizing their time for other projects.