Due to varying procedural requirements in state law and county ordinances, each type of permit may be subject to different processing requirements. Please see the filing requirement checklists and related application submittal material below.
We recommend that you prepare some preliminary plans and bring them to the our front counter located at 2222 "M" Street, 2nd Floor, Merced, CA 95340 so that we can review them before you submit your application. An informal meeting at this stage may save you considerable time and money later on. The goal of every staff member is to help you get your project approved. After seeing very preliminary plans, the counter staff can help you by identifying potential problems and pointing out what kinds of changes, if any, you might have to make. Then you can create your formal plans and submit your application.
- Administrative Permit
- Antiquated Subdivision
- Conditional Use Permit
- Certificate of Compliance
- Development Agreement
- General Plan Amendment
- Home Occupation
- Major Modification
- Major Subdivision
- Minor Modification
- Minor Deviation
- Minor Subdivision
- Property Line Adjustment
- Site Plan & Design Review
- Surface Mining Application
- Temporary Use Permit
- Zoning Clearance
- Zoning Code Amendment
- Zoning Map Amendment
- Voluntary Merger
Administrative Permits are for uses of land that require special review and control to ensure they are compatible with the neighborhood and surrounding residences. They are considered more likely to have greater impacts than uses permitted by right in the zone, but lesser impacts than uses permitted under Conditional Use Permits.
Administrative Permits are discretionary acts (i.e., the Planning Director or Planning Commission is not compelled to approve them) which may ultimately result in land uses that could have a significant effect on the environment. They are, therefore, subject to environmental review.
When the Zoning Code requires an Administrative Permit for a use proposed by an applicant, the processing is completed at one of three levels: 1) “Over-the-Counter” approval; 2) Planning Director decision; 3) Hearing Officer decision at a public hearing.; or, 4) Planning Commission decision at a public hearing. The level of review is determined by the project proposal, its location, potential for controversy or opposition, potential environmental impacts, and other such considerations.
On April 1, 1965, Merced County adopted an ordinance regulating how land may be subdivided. Subdivisions recorded prior to that date were not reviewed for consideration of impacts that could result from their development. In most of these subdivisions, there is a lack of public improvements and services which would be necessary for the County that are now clearly recognized as agricultural, new development on the lots could represent a change to a more urban environment, which would be inconsistent with County General Plan policy. As defined in the County code, “Antiquated Subdivision” involves all of the following criteria: Lots less than 20 acres in size in the A-1 zone or less than 160 acres in the A-2 zone; lots which were created in conjunction with four or more lots prior to April 1, 1965; and lots that have not been previously reviewed for environment impacts. For lots meeting these three criteria, environmental review of potential impacts is required before permits can be issued for driveways, buildings, domestic wells and septic systems.
Conditional Use Permit
Conditional Use Permits are for uses of land that require special review and control to ensure they are compatible with the neighborhood and surrounding residences or other uses. They are considered more likely to have greater impacts than uses permitted by right or by administrative permit. The Zoning Code requires that Conditional Use Permits be reviewed by the Planning Commission.
Conditional Use Permits are discretionary acts (i.e., the Planning Commission is not compelled to approve them) which may ultimately result in land uses that could have a significant effect on the environment. They are, therefore, subject to environmental review.
- Conditional Use Permit
Certificate of Compliance
A Certificate of Compliance is a certificate approved and signed by the Development Services Director stating that real estate property complies with the County Subdivision Code and the State Subdivision Map Act and is recognized as a legal parcel (or legal parcels). The certificate is recorded at the Merced County Recorder and serves as an official record on the legal subdivision status of the property in question.
A Certificate of Compliance is needed for circumstances where the legality of a parcel must be determined, such as for financing purposes or securing various types of Discretionary development permits. Before the County can grant permission for a discretionary or in some instances a ministerial permit application, an owner of property must be able to show that he (she) has ownership of a legal parcel.
A development agreement is a contract between the County and an applicant with a legal or equitable interest in land subject to development, in compliance with Government Code Article 2.5 (Development Agreements).
A development agreement is intended to provide assurance to the applicant that an approved project may generally proceed subject to the policies, rules, regulations, and conditions of approval applicable to the project at the time of approval, regardless of any changes to County policies, rules, and regulations after project approval.
In return, the County is provided assurance that the project will further important Countywide goals and policies that have been officially recognized by the Board, and provide the County with significant, tangible benefits beyond those that may be required by the County through project conditions of approval.
General Plan Amendment
The Merced County General Plan is a long-term planning document which contains goals, objectives, policies and maps regarding the County’s desires concerning land use in the unincorporated areas of the County. As part of the General Plan, the Land Use Policy Diagram defines the boundaries between various rural land use designations, i.e., Agricultural and Foothill Pasture, and urban areas. In addition, land uses within each unincorporated community in the County are described by a Specific Urban Development Plan (SUDP), i.e., Commercial, Industrial and Residential.
A General Plan Amendment can take two forms:
- An amendment to either the County-wide Land Use Policy Diagram or the SUDP for an unincorporated community; or
- An amendment to either the text of the County-wide General Plan or Community Specific Plans.
State Planning Law limits amendments to any of the mandatory chapters of the General Plan to a maximum of four times a year. General Plan Amendments are discretionary acts (i.e., the Board is not compelled to approve them) which may ultimately result in land uses that could have a significant effect on the environment. General Plan Amendments are, therefore, subject to environmental review.
An accessory use of a dwelling unit conducted entirely within the dwelling unit, and where the use is clearly incidental and secondary to the use of the dwelling for residential purposes and does not change the character or adversely affect the uses allowed in the residential zone of which it is a part. See Section 18.60.070 (Home Occupations).
A modification, or change, to an approved Administrative Permit or Conditional Use Permit is considered "major" if the modification involves significant alteration, modifications, or new construction.
A Major Subdivision is the division of any land info five or more parcels for the purpose of sale, lease, or financing, or as a gift, except for leases of agricultural land for agricultural purposes. Property is considered as contiguous units even if it is separated by roads, streets, utility easements or railroad rights-of-way. A Major Subdivision requires approval of both a “Tentative Subdivision Map” and a “Final Map”.
Major subdivisions are discretionary acts (i.e., the Planning Commission is not compelled to approve them) which may ultimately result in land uses that could have a significant effect on the environment. They are, therefore, subject to environmental review.
A modification, or change, to an approved Administrative Permit or Conditional Use Permit is considered "minor" if the modification involves minor alteration and modifications.
Minor Deviations are only approved when, because of special circumstances applicable to the property, the strict application of this Zoning Code denies the owner of the property privileges enjoyed by other property located nearby and in an identical zone. Specific findings (see Section 18.126.050 (Findings and Decision) are required and associated conditions are applied that would work together to guarantee that the Minor Deviation shall not constitute an approval of special privilege(s) inconsistent with the limitations upon other property in the vicinity and zone in which the subject property is located
A Minor Subdivision is the division of any land into four or fewer parcels for the purpose of sale, lease, financing, or as a gift, except for leases of agricultural land for agricultural purposes. A Minor Subdivision requires approval of both a “Tentative Parcel Map” and a “Parcel Map”. Minor Subdivisions are discretionary (i.e., the Hearing Officer or Planning Commission is not compelled to approve them) Which may ultimately result in land uses that could have a significant effect on the environment. They are, therefore, subject to environmental review.
Property Line Adjustment
A Property Line Adjustment is the adjustment of a property line between two or more existing adjacent parcels, where the land taken from one parcel is added to an adjacent parcel, and no additional parcels are created.
Property Line Adjustments are reviewed and approved by the Planning Director. This may be done with or without a formal hearing. Property Line Adjustments are discretionary acts (i.e., the Planning Director is not compelled to approve them) which may ultimately result in land uses that could have a significant effect on the environmental review
Site Plan & Design Review
Site Plan & Design Review is an administrative review process providing for review of projects for compliance with the provisions of this Zoning Code and with any site plan or architectural design guidelines adopted by the County and as provided in Chapter 18.122 (Site Plan and Design Review) of the Zoning Code..
Temporary Use Permit
A Temporary Use Permit allows short-term activities that might not meet the normal development or use standards of the applicable zone, but may otherwise be acceptable because of their temporary nature.
A Zoning Clearance is iussed for land uses that are allowed by right in a specific zone are called "allowed uses". In many zones, a Zoning Clearance for these permitted uses shall first be reviewed and issued by the Director in consultation with County Fire Department, Roads Division, and Division of Environmental Health. Zoning Clearances are necessary to demonstrate compliance with all applicable County laws and regulations before the issuance of a Building Permit, or the initiation of an activity where no Building Permit is needed.
Zoning Code Amendment
All property in the unincorporated area of Merced County is classified into various zoning districts and described in the Zoning Code. The text of each zoning district outlines the uses permitted by right, uses requiring an administrative or conditional permit, accessory uses and property development standards.
A Zoning Code Amendment is a procedure involving the addition, deletion, or modification to the text of the Zoning Code and is effective Countywide. All proposals to amend the Zoning Code text must be consistent with the General Plan and conform with the remainder of the Zoning Code.
Zoning Code Amendments are discretionary acts (i.e., the Board is not compelled to approve them) which may ultimately result in land uses that could have a significant effect on the environment. They are, therefore, subject to environmental review
- Zoning Code Amendment
Zoning Map Amendment
All land in the unincorporated areas of Merced County is classified into various “zoning districts”, such as “A-2” (Exclusive Agricultural), “R-1” (Single-Family Residence), “C-2” (General Commercial), etc. These districts are outlined on the County Zoning Map, and the text of the Zoning Code describes the uses allowed and development standards for each district.
A Zoning Map Amendment is the procedure by which land is reclassified into a different zoning district. Since a Zoning Map Amendment results in a change to the adopted County Zoning Map, the decision to approve the change must be brought before both the County’s planning agency, the Planning Commission, and the Legislative body, the Board of Supervisors. It is not usual to process a General Plan Amendment concurrently with a Zoning Map Amendment, since the General Plan is the County’s guiding land use policy document which the Zoning Map is bases on, and the two must be consistent.
Zoning Map Amendments are discretionary acts (i.e, the Board is not compelled to approve them) which may ultimately result in land uses that could have a significant effect on the environment. Zoning Map Amendments are, therefore, subject to environmental review
A Variance is a procedure established by state law and the Merced County Zoning Code whereby a request is made to vary from the minimum property development standards established by the Zoning Code. Property development standards include building height, lot area, structural coverage, building setbacks, lot frontage, or lot depth-to-width ratio.
Variances are discretionary acts (i.e., the Planning Commission is not compelled to approve them) which may ultimately result in land uses that could have a significant effect on the environment. They are, therefore, subject to environmental review.
A variance may only be approved to relieve a physical hardship rather than to grant special privileges not enjoyed by neighboring properties. In addition, variances may not be granted for an economic hardship or allow a use on property which is not otherwise permitted. For certain situations, a standard can be modified through a Minor Deviation Application (see separate processing handout) acted on by the Planning Director.