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What We Do

The Planning Division regulates land uses, site design, and building design consistent with the adopted community policies, standards and ordinances. The Planning Division provides information on zoning, parking, signage, development standards (setback standards, height limitations, and the like), and the Turlock General Plan. The Planning Division processes a variety of development applications, including those that are reviewed by the Planning Commission and City Council, such as new subdivisions, shopping centers, parks, and churches. The Planning Division is also the first stop for people setting up a new business in Turlock, including home-based businesses.

Free Predevelopment Meeting to Help You Better Understand the Planning Permitting Process

We offer a free service, called a predevelopment meeting, that allows you to meet with representatives from various departments in the City that will be involved in reviewing your project. The Planning Division is one of the participants in these meetings and will provide you an overview of any permits (listed below) that may be required for your project. The meetings are set up through the Planning Division of the Development Services Department.

Predevelopment Meetings

Use Regulations: "A place for everything... everything in its place"

These regulations are designed to ensure a compatibility of uses throughout Turlock. A good example of a use regulation process is the requirement for a "Zoning Certificate" prior to the issuance of a City of Turlock business license; this ensures that harmful uses do not adversely impact other businesses. Certain businesses, due to their sensitive nature, are regulated by the Planning Commission, or even the City Council.

Design Regulations

These regulations govern the actual development standards for a project and include limitations on: density, bulk, height, parking, landscaping, and signage. We have adopted many standards to insure the highest quality design in our city. High quality projects add value to the community, stimulate additional investment, help neighboring properties maintain their value, and enhance the image of Turlock as a quality place to do business. Examples of a design regulation process would be a sign permit, landscape review, or building design review. These processes allow staff or the Planning Commission to review projects for consistency with the adopted development standards of the City of Turlock.

Review Processes

Minor Administrative Approvals (MAA)

These are routine approvals that may need some type of administrative interpretation regarding compliance with policies, standards, and guidelines of the Turlock City Council. A good example of an MAA is a Zoning Certificate which grants the approval of a new business in an existing building. Staff must make a determination that the proposed business is located within an appropriate district of the city, and that the building and grounds comply with Municipal Code standards for the particular use. For example, Staff must make sure that adequate parking is provided. Or if the business involves storing equipment outside, the storage area must be screened from public view.

Sign permits are a different type of MAA. We require nearly all types of signs to obtain a permit prior to their installation. The MAA process allows Staff to make sure the sign proposal is consistent with the sign standards of the Turlock Municipal Code in terms of size, height, location, design, and illumination.

Many MAAs are issued over the counter. Some, more complicated MAAs may take up to five (5) working days to issue.

Minor Discretionary Permits (MDP)

Certain projects require a larger degree of administrative discretion in determining compliance with the adopted policies, codes, and standards of the City of Turlock. MDPs are usually required when there is a substantial change in use of an existing structure, a large expansion of an existing structure, an entirely new project is to be built, and some small new structures, including freestanding signs, are also reviewed through the MDP process. Staff's role is to determine whether the use, site, improvements, and structures comply with adopted standards.

A substantial difference between an MAA and an MDP is that an MDP requires public notification of the proposed project. Only the adjoining property owners are notified. As the project may constitute a significant change in the neighborhood, it is important that the adjoining property owners are made aware of the impending projects. As with all Staff project reviews, a concerned neighbor or property owner may request that the issue be discussed at a public hearing before the Planning Commission.

Minor Discretionary Permit Brochure

Design Review (also a MDP)

The Design Review process is used to analyze new buildings and large-scale additions to existing commercial and industrial buildings for compliance with the adopted development standards of the City of Turlock. Typically, these are non-controversial in term of the proposed use, but there may be a number of design issues that warrant careful analysis. For instance, a new restaurant on a pad site in an existing shopping center will be subject to the design review process. Most large shopping centers have a number of detailed design criteria against which a development application must be analyzed.

Conditional Use Permits (CUP)

A CUP is used to process contentious land uses in existing or new structures. A good example of a CUP is a church in a residential district. The process is similar to the MDP and Design Review. However, all CUPs require a public hearing before the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission is an independent body of lay-people appointed by the Mayor. They enforce the policies of the City of Turlock in a public hearing format.

All property owners within 500 feet of the proposed project are notified of the application and the public hearing. The processing time for a CUP is eight to 12 weeks, depending upon the complexity of the project and the amount of state-mandated environmental review required.

Conditional Use Permit Brochure

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

All development that could have an adverse impact upon the environment is subject to CEQA, a state-wide policy adopted to protect the environment. CEQA suffers from a poor image among the development community. It is often seen as a bureaucratic and litigious tool to delay development projects.

In Turlock, however, the City Council adopted a General Plan Environmental Impact Report as part of the Update to the Turlock General Plan. This master document allows most development projects to be approved with minimal environmental review, as long as the development proposed is consistent with the General Plan. It is a "carrot-and-stick" approach to development, whereby development consistent with the General Plan goes through a streamlined development process. Similar documents have been certified for each of the master plan areas in the City: this allows for a fast-track development process in the area.

Environmental Review Brochure

General Plan Amendments and Rezones

Infrequently, an applicant will request a change to the zoning or the General Plan for a piece of property. For example, a developer may consider a project to develop apartments on property designated for single-family homes or want residential uses rather than commercial uses.

These applications are processed in a way similar to CUPs. However, as these applications are legislative actions, they are ultimately approved at a public hearing before the City Council - this adds approximately six weeks to the processing time of the application. In addition, the request may require a more detailed environmental analysis to show how the proposal's impacts differ from those evaluated in the General Plan or for a specific master plan area.

For questions about the Turlock General Plan, please contact:

Planning Division
156 S. Broadway, Ste. 120
Turlock, CA 95380-5456
(209) 668-5640
Monday - Friday, 9AM - 4PM

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