Discretionary Permitting: What Homeowners Need to Know

The discretionary permitting process is often used by local governments to ensure that proposed land uses are compatible with existing land uses, and that they do not pose an undue risk to public health, safety, or welfare. This process typically involves a review of the proposed project by a local planning commission or other governing body, which then makes a recommendation to the local governing body (e.g. city council, county board of supervisors, etc.) as to whether or not the permit should be granted.

The discretionary permitting process is often more involved than other types of permitting processes, as it typically requires a higher level of scrutiny and public involvement. This is because the discretionary permitting process often involves land uses that have a greater potential impact on the surrounding community, such as commercial or industrial uses, or uses that require significant modifications to the existing landscape.

When Does Discretionary Permitting Effect the Homeowner?
For homeowners, the discretionary permitting process typically comes into play when they are looking to make significant modifications to their property. This may include adding a second story to a home, building a new garage or workshop, or changing the use of a property from residential to commercial. In these cases, homeowners will typically need to apply for a discretionary land use permit from their local government.

The exact requirements for obtaining a discretionary land use permit can vary depending on the local government and the specific project involved. However, there are several common elements that homeowners can expect to encounter during the permitting process.

What Steps are Involved?
The first step in the discretionary permitting process is typically to submit an application to the local government. This application will typically include detailed plans for the proposed project, including drawings, schematics, and other supporting materials. The application will also typically include information about the existing property, including its current use, zoning, and any relevant restrictions or regulations.

Once the application has been submitted, it will typically be reviewed by the local planning commission or other governing body. This review process may include a public hearing, where members of the community can provide input and feedback on the proposed project. The planning commission will typically consider a range of factors when making its recommendation, including the compatibility of the proposed project with the surrounding community, the potential impacts on public health and safety, and the overall suitability of the project for the site.

After the planning commission has made its recommendation, the local governing body will typically consider the application and the recommendation, and make a final decision as to whether or not to grant the permit. In some cases, the governing body may choose to approve the permit with conditions, such as requiring certain modifications to the project or imposing specific requirements related to traffic, noise, or other factors.

The discretionary permitting process can be a complex and time-consuming process for homeowners. However, it is an important mechanism for ensuring that proposed land uses are compatible with the surrounding community, and that they do not pose an undue risk to public health, safety, or welfare. By working closely with their local government and following the requirements of the permitting process, homeowners can ensure that their proposed projects are more likely to be approved.

Shortening the Process
Here are some ways to potentially shorten the discretionary permitting process for homeowners:

1. Hire a Professional: Homeowners can hire a local professional such as an architect or land use consultant who is experienced with the local permitting process. This can help ensure that the plans are complete and meet the requirements of the local building codes, which can help speed up the permitting process.

2. Research Local Requirements: Homeowners can research the local permitting requirements before starting their project to ensure they are aware of all the necessary permits and requirements. This can help prevent delays caused by missing information or submitting incorrect paperwork.

3. Attend Pre-Application Meetings: Many cities and towns offer pre-application meetings where homeowners can meet with planning and building officials to discuss their project and ask questions. Attending these meetings can help clarify the permitting process and provide guidance on how to best prepare the permit application.

4. Use Online Resources: Many municipalities now offer online resources such as permit checklists, permit application forms, and building code requirements. Utilizing these resources can help streamline the permitting process and make it easier for homeowners to submit their applications.

It’s important to note that the permitting process can vary widely depending on the location and the specific project. Homeowners should always check with local professionals and their local building department for the most up-to-date information and guidance on how to best navigate the discretionary permitting process.

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