The local planning departments are charged with the responsibility of preparing, maintaining, and implementing
a General Plan for the development of a local jurisdiction which either may be a city or county. The General Plan consists of the framework element of the local jurisdiction, which provides overall future guidance and other elements including state mandated elements such as transportation, affordable housing, open space, and land use elements.
The planning department implements the General Plan utilizing a variety of tools through the application of zoning regulations. Traditional zoning, specific plans, the overlay districts, and special use permits, such as minor and major conditional-use permits and variances, all regulate the use
of land. There are two types of city review a developer may anticipate when moving forward with a development project, project design review and legislative body review.
The project design review phase of a development project provides the staff of the planning department and members of the public staff an opportunity to discuss a their intended project. This allows the planning department to also review code requirements, the planning process, the departmental policies, and any necessary land entitlements that may be required for a proposed project.
The planning department will help identify any significant land and building issues that may affect the project design and feasibility. The department may request information such as the project's proposed site and floor plans and other supporting materials. A meeting is then scheduled where the planning department will discuss the plans in detail with the developer to determine when they can apply for building permits. Depending on the project, approval of certain requirements may be required by the local legislative body.
Although the current zoning of a land usually allows for certain types of projects by-right depending on approval of the project plans, many require discretion by a legislative body. The local legislative body such a city, town, and county council members and county commissioners vote on certain proposals by a developer.
These groups of officials constitute the legislative body that is given the authority by a state constitution or law to make
a local law (i.e. city ordinances and amendments) such as rezoning or subdividing land. The decisions by legislative bodies are what ultimately lead to obtaining approvals and building permits to move forward with the construction and the overall development of a proposed project.