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Submittal & Review Process

What is the application submittal & review process?

    Pre-application Assessment (Pre-app)

    A Pre-app is a preliminary meeting in which Staff from Plannding and Development (P&D) meets with you to discuss your project. Staff will inform you of any potential policy inconsistencies, potential environmental impacts, changes in your project which may avoid policy conflicts, and any special studies (e.g. traffic, noise, archeology, biology, etc.) which may be required.


    Your application packet describes all of the required material for your submittal. The Application Coordinator will ensure that all required information is present before accepting your application.

    Application Review

    Once the application has been accepted, it is reviewed by a P&D Planner (oil & gas permits are processed by the Energy Division) and, for more complex applications, by other departments who may have regulating authority over your application. The other departments with land use regulatory authority convene to discuss new applications with the applicant at the Subdivision/Development Review Committee (SDRC) meeting. If needed, the SDRC will meet to review your application a second time after your application has been deemed complete.

    Site Visit

    Within three weeks of submittal your P&D Planner will visit the project site. Staff from other departments may also be there (they will let you know at the SDRC meeting). You may be asked to identify certain features of the project using chalk or stakes (e.g. proposed access roads, building envelopes, etc.). Surveying is not normally required.


    Even though the application form & submittal ask for a lot of information, your Planner may need additional information to determine whether your project complies with certain regulations (for example, an archaeological study may be needed if preliminary review indicates probable archaeological resources). We encourage you to take advantage of our Pre-App process PRIOR to your submittal to anticipate these items. The application will be deemed "complete" when all information necessary to review your application submittal has been received. Your Planner has 30 days to determine whether additional information is needed. During that 30 days, if you made a deposit (as opposed to paying a full fee) your Planner will also prepare a detailed cost estimate for you.

    Development & Environmental Review

    Within 30 days after the application has been called complete, Staff will determine the level of environmental review required for your project. There are three primary levels of environmental review and documentation allowed under CEQA:

      Exemption - Certain types of development have been designated by the State Legislature as having no potential for significant environmental impact. In addition, after preliminary review, smaller projects may be found to have no potential for significant environmental impact, and, therefore, be exempt from environmental review.

      Negative Declaration (ND) - A negative declaration will be written if either:

      • The project will not result in significant environmental impacts.
      • Mitigation Measures have been incorporated in the project description to reduce potential environmental impacts to a less than significant level.

      Environmental Impact Report (EIR) - An EIR will be written if the project has the potential to create significant environmental impacts.

    The Board of Supervisors has adopted "Thresholds of Significance" which identify the level at which potential environmental impacts require further study. Thresholds help determine whether an ND or an EIR is appropriate for your project.

    Policy Consistency

    In addition to preparation of the appropriate environmental document, your Planner will also analyze your project's consistency with the Comprehensive Plan, local Zoning Ordinance requirements, and any other State and local planning regulations which apply. All of the Planner's analysis will be synthesized in a report to the decision-maker. This report will include a recommendation, specific project information and analysis, recommended conditions of approval from P&D and from any applicable County departments, final plans & maps and "findings" which the decision-maker is required by law to make. If your project had an EIR with significant, unmitigable impacts, the decision maker must make findings of overriding consideration - compelling reasons to approve your project despite potential harm to the environment -in order to approve your project.

    Community Review

    Montecito, Hope Ranch, and the Santa Ynez Valley are each represented by a community land use committee. These committees meet informally to discuss development proposals and make recommendations to the decision-maker. If your project is located in one of these areas, it may be heard by the neighborhood committee.

    Regional Board of Architectural Review

    Applications for development such as development plans, tract maps, and some conditional use permits require conceptual review by a BAR prior to the decision-maker hearing. The Planner will schedule the project on the appropriate BAR agenda. Comments from the BAR are forwarded to the decision-maker in the form of design plan changes or conditions of approval.


    The County's zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations specify the decision maker for each application type. Listed below are decision making bodies, the basis of their authority and the application types within their jurisdiction.

      P&D Director - The P&D Director has the authority to issue certain permits as granted him/her by the Board of Supervisors by ordinance. Director decisions may be appealed to the Planning Commission.

      Zoning Administrator (ZA) - The position of Zoning Administrator is authorized by the California Government Code and is created by ordinance. The Zoning Administrator is a hearing officer who conducts public hearings and renders decisions on minor or non-complex permit and use applications. The ZA is appointed by the Director of P&D.

      Planning Commission (PC) - The Planning Commission, comprised of five citizens -- each appointed by one district Supervisor to a two-year term -- reviews and renders decisions on matters pertaining to land use, development and maintenance of the various elements of the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance. The Planning Commission acts as the final decision making body for most of the applications it reviews, but in a few instances, the Commission provides recommendations to the Board of Supervisors who make a final decision.

      Board of Supervisors (BOS) - The Board of Supervisors is a body of elected officials one from each of the County's five districts. The Board hears and decides issues relating to all aspects of County government including development applications. The Board hears and decides General Plan Amendments, Ordinance Amendments, and Rezoning requests. Additionally, the Board hears Zoning Administrator and Planning Commission appeals and creates new agricultural preserves. The Board of Supervisors also executes many of the agreements and contracts necessary to process a case or to successfully fulfill conditions on a project, sets County policies and is the only body able to waive fees. In the appeals jurisdiction of the Coastal Zone, decisions of the Board may be appealed to the California Coastal Commission.

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