This handout is intended to provide a checklist for applicants to ensure that their applications for a use permit are as complete as possible when submitted to Permit Sonoma to facilitate permit processing. The Sonoma County Code sets forth both uses that are “Permitted Uses” and “Uses Permitted with a Use Permit” within each zoning district. Examples of uses requiring a Use Permit are: wineries, kennels, contractor storage yards, planned developments and mixed use projects. A Use Permit application is required for uses that are typically more intensive than Permitted Uses or may not be the principal purpose for the district. Use Permit applications require an opportunity for public hearing before the Board of Zoning Adjustments. For minor modifications to existing land uses or where the use is minor in nature, the use permit can be approved administratively by planning staff. In these cases, the public hearing may be waived, if no comments are received after notice is provided to neighboring property owners. When a particular use also requires a Zone Change and/or a General Plan Amendment, the public hearing must be held before the Planning Commission and ultimately, the Board of Supervisors.
Use Permits are discretionary in nature and may require site specific studies conducted by qualified professionals related to biotic and cultural resources, water availability, noise, traffic and other issues. A Use Permit can only be approved if found to be consistent with the Sonoma County General Plan, applicable Area or Specific Plans, the Zoning Code and that the use is compatible with the health, safety, and general welfare of the neighborhood. Use permits can take 6 months up to several years to process, depending upon the completeness of the application, the complexity of the project and level of environmental review, and the level of neighborhood controversy. If approved, the use permit will include conditions of approval that must be met prior to vesting the use. Once the conditions of approval have been met, the use permit is considered vested and will run with the land and benefit all subsequent property owners (unless the use is limited term).