Change Plan Approval for Silo Project in Orange County

Our three, 300 ton silo with bolted down mat foundation proposal needed to go through the change plan (or discretionary permit) process at the Orange County planning department. Orange County requires a discretionary permit for certain land use or special development proposals where the Planning Director will need to approve the project or in some cases, the project will need to be passed at a public hearing. Fortunately, for this particular project, we only needed to get a final approval from the Planning Director at the Planning Department.

The project is in a SG (Sand Gravel) Zone, which is primarily used for extracting natural resources, however, this site has changed to an asphalt mixing plant since it’s origins.  Additionally, the proposed site of the new construction is within a FP-2 (Flood Plain) zone as well making it an even tougher obstacle to build on.

The requirements for this project’s change plan submission included: 1) Application Information Form, 2) Agent Authorization Letter, 3) Letter of Project Proposal, 4) Plans/Drawings – site plan, floor plan, elevations, etc., 5) Site Color Photos and lastly the $1,000 nonrefundable processing fee. Typically, there are additional requirements for the submission, but the planning department did not require them.

In order to expedite the process, both the client and L.A. Design Group thought it would be worthwhile to submit the the drawings simultaneously for the variance as well as the plan check review, which includes submissions to the Planning Department and the Building & Safety Department.  The risk in doing the concurrent process is the possibility of not getting the discretionary permit approved, which would mean the client would potentially have wasted their plan check review fee.

The clear benefit of this concurrent submittal is that it will expedite the building permit process.  The variance or change plan review takes a minimum of 30 days to approve, while the plan check review can take vary depending on how busy the building department.  But if one were to wait the 30 days to see if they got the approval and then submitted for plan check afterwards, it might double their time in which they’d be able to obtain their building permit or just to receive the first round of comments from the departments.

In addition to the check list items for the change plan review, two planners from the County inspected the project site for a better understanding of the project and to submit a more thorough and complete report to the Planning Director.  The initial concerns of the planning department for this project proposal was how the aesthetics of the silos from the street and other public views as well as how much new noise would result with the increase production at the asphalt plant for the neighboring buildings.  After documenting the site with photographs and getting a tour of the facility with both a representative of L.A. Design Group and the client, the planning department had completed their report and recommended an approval of the project to the Planning Director.

Our assigned planner notified us of our Change Plan approval on September 14, 2011.  All in all, the entire process was 30 days and the planners at Orange County were very helpful and eager to work with us on this unique project.  The whole procedure can be a bit hectic on a client and designer because the planning department has the authority to deny your proposal, because of simply how something looks.  For example, if the proposed silos were too much of an eye sore with very little plant screening, they may have denied us.  Fortunately, they approved this project and we were able to proceed to the next step in obtaining the building permits.