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WHAT IS A PLANNING COMMISSION?
The Planning Commission is a permanent committee made up of five or more individuals who have been appointed by the governing body (city council or board of supervisors) to review and act on matters related to planning and development[1]. Most Planning Commissioners are lay people without any previous land use experience.  Commissioners serve at the pleasure of the council or board of supervisors, so commission membership may change in response to changes in those bodies.  A local agency need not create a Planning Commission; in some jurisdictions, the governing body functions in that capacity[2].

THE COMMISSION’S DUTIES
The Planning Commission plays a central role in the planning process in three important ways.  First, it acts as an advisory board to the main governing body on all planning and development issues. Second, the commission assures that the general plan is implemented by reviewing development applications on a case-by-case basis.  Just as you build a building one brick at a time, you implement a community vision one project at a time.  Third, the commission functions as the decision-making body for may proposals.  However, any planning commission action can be appealed to the governing body, which can uphold the commission’s decision, overturn it, modify it, or send it back for further study.

Planning Commission duties vary depending on the jurisdiction.  You can lean about your commission’s particular responsibilities by asking the planning department.  Most commissions have the following responsibilities:[3]

  • General Plan. Assist in writing the General Plan and hold public hearings on its adoption.  (The governing body retains authority to actually adopt the General Plan.)  Promote public interest in the General Plan.  Consult with and advise public officials and agencies, utilities, organizations, and the public regarding implementation of the General Plan.  Also review, hold hearing on, and act upon proposed amendments to the plan.
  • Specific Plans. Assist in writing any specific plans or community plans and hold public hearings on such plans. (The governing body retains authority to actually adopt Specific Plans.)  Also review, hold hearing on, and act upon proposed amendments to such plans.
  • Zoning and Subdivision Maps. Review, hold hearing on, and act upon zoning ordinances, maps, conditional use permits, and variances.  Similarly consider subdivision applications.
  • Individual Project Approvals.  Review individual projects for consistency with the general plan, any applicable specific plans, the zoning ordinance, and other land use policies and regulations.
  • Report on Capital Improvement Plans.  Annually review the jurisdiction’s capital improvements program and the public works projects of other local agencies for consistency with the general plan.
  • Coordinate Planning Efforts.  Coordinate local plans and programs with those of other public agencies.
  • Consider Land Acquisitions.  Report to the governing body on the consistency of proposed public land acquisition or disposal with the general plan.
  • Special Studies.  Undertake special planning studies as needed.

With so many responsibilities, it is important for every planning commission to think about how it will divide its time between day-by-day approvals and long-range planning efforts, both of which are important.

The Grass Valley Planning Commission is comprised of five members, appointed by the City Council.  Meetings are held on the third Tuesday of the month at 7:00 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall.

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