> Environmental Review > CEQA Proceedures
Title 15 of Inyo County Code
All environmental documents prepared pursuant to these Procedures shall be retained in the appropriate files of the Planning Department and may be used by the County or other parties for such purposes as would further the environmental policies of the County of Inyo.
The following definitions supplement the definitions used in the State CEQA Guidelines.
1. Applicant - A person who proposes to carry out a project that needs a discretionary approval, lease, permit, license, certificate, or other entitlement for use or financial assistance from one or more public agencies when that person applies for governmental approval or assistance.
2. Application - Project description information, including the environmental information form, and other information deemed necessary by the County to evaluate the project.
3. Board - The Board of Supervisors of the County of Inyo.
4. Commission - Commissions in Inyo County include the Planning Commission and Water Commission.
5. County - The County of Inyo. "County" includes the County staff and any other agency, body, commission, committee, person, or persons designated by the Board to perform that function or any other Board-authorized decision-making body.
6. Decision-Making Body - The person, commission, agency, or board that has approval power over the project and is responsible for taking final action on a project under state law or County ordinances. Where appeals from subordinate decision-making bodies are provided for by law and an appeal is taken, the appellate body making the final decision shall be deemed the decision-making body.
7. Deemed Withdrawn - Decision by the County that an application is no longer valid.
8. Dependent Special District - Any local agency of which the Inyo County Board of Supervisors is the governing board (e.g., cemetery and street lighting districts).
9. Development Project - A project that needs to obtain discretionary approvals, permits, or funding from the County.
10. Independent Special District - Any local public agency that has an independent governing board that does not consist of the Inyo County Board of Supervisors.
11. Local Agency Formation Commission - The Inyo County Local Agency Formation Commission, which is an independent body responsible for regulating the boundaries of cities and special districts (Government Code Sections 56000 et seq.).
12. Planning Commission - The Planning Commission of the County of Inyo which consists of seven members appointed by the Board of Supervisors: five voting members and two nonvoting members consisting of the County Administrative Officer and the Public Works Director.
13. Planning Department - The Planning Department of the County of Inyo.
14. Private Projects - Projects requiring County discretionary approvals, permits, or funding and proposed to be carried out by individuals, non-public agencies, or other developers.
15. Public Projects - Projects proposed to be carried out by a department of the County or by a dependent special district governed by the Board of Supervisors.
16. Reentry - The process by which the County may resume processing a suspended application. Following submittal of the requested information, environmental review continues from the point reached before suspension and mandatory CEQA time periods resume.
17. Special-status Species - Special-status species are plants and animals that are legally protected under the state or federal Endangered Species Act or other regulations, and species that are considered sufficiently rare by the scientific community to qualify for such listing.
18. Sponsoring Agency - An agency, department, or other division within the County responsible for processing a permit or similar entitlement or initiating a project subject to the requirements of CEQA.
19. Unreasonable Delay - A delay of 30 days or more by an applicant in providing requested information or required submittals.
20. Water Commission - The Inyo County Water Commission, which consists of five members all of whom shall be residents of Inyo County.
These Procedures shall apply to public projects directly carried out by County departments as well as private projects requiring County discretionary approvals, permits, or funding. All activities that are initiated by the County, are funded in whole or part by the County, or require discretionary approvals or permits from the County are subject to CEQA review. Most development activities that are not exempt from CEQA will be reviewed or processed by the Planning Department and approved by the Planning Commission. All projects carried out by, approved by, permitted by, or funded by the Inyo County Water Department shall be approved by the Inyo County Water Commission. When a particular County officer or commission by state statute or County ordinance is expressly charged with the responsibility as a CEQA Lead Agency for the preparation and/or approval of CEQA documents for specific projects, such officers or commissions shall carry out such responsibility in accordance with Chapter 15 of the Inyo County Code. In such cases, the Planning Department and Planning Commission may be relived of their obligations under this chapter.
15.12.010 Public Projects.
When the County plans to carry out a non-exempt public project, the sponsoring agency shall prepare an environmental information form and related application materials for review and processing by the Planning Department. The Planning Department shall review the environmental information form, prepare an Initial Study, and recommend to the sponsoring agency whether a Negative Declaration or EIR is required. Should a disagreement occur between the Planning Department and sponsoring agency over the Initial Study finding or recommendation, a consultation on the Initial Study will be convened within 10 working days following receipt of the recommendation by the sponsoring agency. Issues raised in regard to the finding or recommendation shall be resolved in a meeting between the Planning Department and the sponsoring agency. If that meeting does not resolve the disagreement, the Planning Department and the sponsoring agency shall refer the matter to the Planning Commission for determination.
15.12.020 Private Projects.
Where a non-exempt private project is subject to discretionary approvals, permits, or funding by the County, the applicant shall prepare an Environmental Information Form and related application materials for review by the Planning Department.
15.12.030 Designation of Sponsoring Agency.
When two or more departments of the County are involved with a project, the sponsoring agency shall be determined by the following criteria:
1. If the project is to be carried out by a department of the County or dependent special district, the sponsoring agency shall be the department or dependent special district that proposes to carry out the project.
2. Where the project is proposed by an applicant other than the County or a dependent special district, the sponsoring agency shall be the department with the authority to process or grant permits or the department with the greatest responsibility for supervising, approving, or causing the approval by a decision-making body of the project as a whole.
3. In the event that designation of a sponsoring agency is in dispute among departments of the County, any department may submit the question to the Board of Supervisors, which shall designate the sponsoring agency.
15.12.040 Responsibilities of the Planning Commission and Water Commission.
To provide an environmental review process that is timely, coordinated, efficient, and integrated with the normal planning review process pursuant to Section 15002 of the State CEQA Guidelines, the Board of Supervisors hereby designates the Inyo County Planning Commission as the Environmental Review Board and lead environmental agency for all County projects for the purpose of CEQA review and processing, with the exception of the projects identified in the paragraph immediately following.
The Inyo County Water Commission is the County agency for the purpose of CEQA review and processing on all projects permitted, carried out, approved, funded, or processed by the Inyo County Water Department. Hereinafter, with regard to all projects carried out, approved, or permitted by the Inyo County Water Department, whenever the term "Planning Commission" is used, it shall be understood to mean the Inyo County Water Commission.
Pursuant to Section 15025 of the State CEQA Guidelines, the Planning Commission shall be responsible for the environmental review of all County projects. Specifically, the Planning Commission shall be responsible for the following CEQA reviews, determinations, findings, and other required actions:
1. Soliciting public and agency comments on Negative Declarations and Draft EIRs, including holding public hearings.
2. The approval of responses to comments received during the review of proposed Negative Declarations and the adoption of Negative Declarations for projects not found to have a potentially significant adverse effect on the environment, when the Planning Commission is the decision-making body.
3. The approval of responses to comments received during the review of mitigated Negative Declarations and the adoption of mitigated Negative Declarations for projects found to have a potentially significant effect on the environment for which specific mitigation measures (when incorporated into the project) will adequately reduce the project's significant effects to insignificance, when the Planning Commission is the decision-making body.
4. The approval of responses to comments received during the review of Draft EIRs and the certification of Final EIRs, when the Planning Commission is the decision-making body.
5. The incorporation of mitigation measures into conditions of project approval when the Planning Commission is the decision-making body, and the recommendation of same to the decision-making body when that body is not the Planning Commission.
6. The recommendation for certification of EIRs or adoption of Negative Declarations and mitigated Negative Declarations to the decision-making body when that body is not the Planning Commission.
7. The review and comment on environmental documents submitted to Inyo County by other agencies for comment.
8. Other activities necessary to carry out Inyo County's responsibilities pursuant to CEQA and the State CEQA Guidelines.
15.12.050 Responsibilities of the Planning Department and Water Department.
The Planning Department shall serve as the administrative staff to the Planning Commission. The Inyo County Water Department shall serve as the administrative staff to the Water Commission on all projects carried out, approved, permitted, funded, or processed by the Inyo County Water Department.
The Planning Department shall assist the Planning Commission in administering the environmental review process, collecting and analyzing information, making recommendations, and, in general, advising the Planning Commission in its determinations. Specifically, the Planning Department shall be responsible for the following actions:
1. Preparing all necessary applications, questionnaires, and forms required to implement the Inyo County CEQA Procedures.
2. Collecting and maintaining a database to provide environmental information for use by the Planning Commission, Planning Department, and other County departments.
3. Consulting with other public and private departments, agencies, groups, and individuals to solicit information, comments, and expertise that will assist in evaluating proposed projects.
4. Determining Statutory and Categorical Exemptions for all private projects and assisting other County departments and agencies in doing so for public projects.
5. Preparing Initial Studies as a preliminary evaluation of whether a project may have a potentially significant adverse effect on the environment.
6. Acquiring additional information, when necessary, to reasonably determine whether a project may have a potentially significant adverse effect on the environment.
7. Based on the analysis contained in the Initial Study, determining an appropriate course of action regarding the need for additional information or the issuance of a Negative Declaration, mitigated Negative Declaration, or Draft EIR.
8. Preparing or overseeing preparation of Negative Declarations, mitigated Negative Declarations, or Draft EIRs either directly by Planning Department staff or by appropriately qualified consultants.
9. Reviewing administrative (precirculation) Draft and Final EIRs and determining their accuracy, objectivity, and adequacy before making them available to the public.
10. Soliciting written public and agency comments on environmental documents during the review period.
11. Preparing Negative Declarations and Final EIRs and making recommendations to the Planning Commission on their adequacy for adoption.
12. Filing all public and other notices required pursuant to the State CEQA Guidelines.
13. Taking all other actions pursuant to the administration of CEQA and these Procedures necessary to assist the Planning Commission.
15.12.060 Responsibilities of the Applicant.
Applicants shall be responsible for the following:
1. The submission of all data and information deemed necessary by the Planning Department or the Planning Commission for the preparation and completion of Initial Studies, Negative Declarations, and EIRs.
2. The payment of all fees required for the preparation and review of Initial Studies, Negative Declarations, and EIRs for private projects in accordance with the Inyo County Fee Schedule.
3. The payment of all costs associated with the preparation of Initial Studies, Negative Declarations, and EIRs for private projects when prepared by Planning Department staff or by an appropriately qualified consultant under contract to the County.
15.12.070 Responsibilities of Other County Departments and Processing Agencies.
The various departments and processing agencies of the County shall be responsible for the determination and administration of Statutory and Categorical Exemptions. Statutory and Categorical Exemptions shall be determined administratively, provided that any County department or agency may submit a proposed project to the Planning Department or Planning Commission to assist in determining CEQA applicability when the department or agency is uncertain of the project's CEQA status.
Each County department or agency shall be responsible for preparing environmental documents. All environmental documents shall be submitted to the Planning Department for review prior to the Planning Department transmittal to the Planning Commission. The Planning Department shall assist any department or agency in obtaining an appropriately qualified consultant when that department or agency lacks the expertise or capability to prepare an adequate Draft EIR.
When a particular County officer or commission by state statute or County ordinance is expressly charged with the responsibility as a CEQA Lead Agency for the preparation and/or approval of CEQA documents for specific projects, such officers or commissions shall carry out such responsibility in accordance with Chapter 15 of the Inyo County Code. In such cases, the Planning Department and Planning Commission may be relived of their obligations under this chapter.
15.12.080 Responsibilities of the Decision-Making Body.
Pursuant to the environmental policies of CEQA and the County, the decision-making body shall consider the information, conclusions, and recommendations contained in the environmental documents before reaching a decision to approve or disapprove a project. Specifically, the decision-making body shall be responsible for the following when considering a project subject to CEQA and these Procedures:
1. The decision-making body shall independently review environmental documents to ensure that the documents are adequate and reflect the County's opinion prior to release to the public.
2. The decision-making body shall consider the proposed Negative Declaration or mitigated Negative Declaration together with any comments received during the public review process. The decision-making body shall adopt the Negative Declaration or mitigated Negative Declaration if it finds, on the basis of the Initial Study, implementation of mitigation measures, and any comments received, that there is no substantial evidence that the project will have a significant adverse effect on the environment pursuant to Section 15074(b) of the State CEQA Guidelines.
3. The decision-making body shall certify that environmental documents, including Final EIRs, have been completed in compliance with CEQA, pursuant to Section 15090(a) of the State CEQA Guidelines.
4. The decision-making body shall certify that it has reviewed and considered the information contained in the Final EIR before approving a project pursuant to Section 15090(b) of the State CEQA Guidelines.
5. The decision-making body shall make one or more of the CEQA findings and supporting statement of fact, as detailed in Section 15091 of the State CEQA Guidelines, when the decision-making body determines to carry out and approve a project for which an EIR has identified one or more significant adverse effects.
6. The decision-making body shall make the statement of overriding considerations, as detailed in Section 15093 of the State CEQA Guidelines, when the decision-making body approves a project that would result in unavoidable adverse environmental effects.
7. The decision-making body shall, to the fullest extent possible, adopt and incorporate feasible mitigation measures that have been identified in environmental documents and are designed to avoid or substantially reduce significant effects, pursuant to Section 15021 of the State CEQA Guidelines.
15.16.010 Timely Compliance.
The County shall carry out its responsibilities for preparing and reviewing environmental documents as expeditiously as possible to avoid unnecessary delays in the processing of projects.
Pursuant to Section 15100 of the California Government Code, statutory time limitations that require action on a project within a specified period of time beyond which the project is automatically deemed approved do not commence until the application is deemed complete for processing. Pursuant to Sections 15100 and 15203(b), all other planning activities associated with project approval, except public hearings and final approvals, may take place concurrently with CEQA compliance. The actual time required for the CEQA environmental analysis and review phases varies with the complexity and magnitude of the project.
15.16.020 Time Limits for Public Projects.
Only private projects (not including legislative or adjudicative actions requiring legislative changes, e.g., general plan amendments or zoning changes) are subject to time limits described in the Permit Streamlining Act (California Gov. Code Sections 65920-65960); however, at its discretion the County may also apply such time limits to public projects.
15.16.030 Minimum and Maximum Time Limits.
The following are the minimum and maximum time periods for private projects
necessary for each CEQA requirement:
|1. Preparation of Initial Study and decision of whether to prepare a Negative Declaration or EIR||10-30 days from determination that application is complete|
|2. Preparation of proposed Negative Declaration||10-105 days from determination that application is complete|
|3. Public review of proposed Negative Declaration||21 days after distribution of a proposed Negative Declaration without state agency involvement; 30 days with State Clearinghouse distribution|
|4. Preparation of responses to comments on a Negative Declaration||10-30 days after close of public review period|
|5. Project approval for projects requiring a Negative Declaration||3 months after adoption of Negative Declaration|
|6. Preparation of Draft EIR||10-180 days after decision to prepare EIR|
|7. Public review of Draft EIR||30 days without state agency involvement; 45 days with State Clearinghouse distribution|
|8. Preparation of Final EIR||10-30 days after close of public review period|
|9. Certification of Final EIR||365 days from determination that application is complete|
|10. Project determination for projects requiring EIR||6 months after EIR is certified|
15.16.040 Time Extensions.
Time extensions may become necessary in any phase or sequence of CEQA processing due to state or federal agency review, unforeseen circumstances, or when the Planning Commission determines that additional public review is warranted.
15.16.050 Consultant Contracts.
If a Negative Declaration or an EIR is prepared by a consultant under contract to the County, the contract shall be executed within 45 days of the date the County deems the application to be complete.
15.16.060 Provisions for Suspension of Processing or Denial.
If an applicant unreasonably delays meeting County requests for additional information necessary to complete the environmental review process, the County may:
1. Suspend the running of the time periods and allow the application to "re-enter" the environmental review process after all necessary information has been submitted,
2. Obtain from the applicant a one-time, 90-day extension of the deadline for final action, or
3. Schedule the project for hearing and recommend that the project be disapproved without prejudice.
If requested information is not provided within 60 days from the date an unreasonable delay is first identified, the application shall be deemed withdrawn under this section and all processing fees forfeited.
No waivers of time beyond those expressly authorized by state law shall be accepted.
15.20.010 Application of CEQA to Projects.
Pursuant to Section 15022 of the State CEQA Guidelines, examples of projects that shall be subject to the requirements set forth in CEQA include but are not limited to:
1. Private Projects
(a) Major subdivisions (tentative maps).2. Public Projects
(b) Minor subdivisions (tentative parcel maps and the creation of lots by certificate of compliance).
(c) Specific plans.
(d) Vacations of improved roads.
(e) Zone reclassifications.
(f) Conditional use permits.
(g) Variances that may result in an increase of land use density.
(h) Grading permits when the slope of the land exceeds 10%, when the grading will affect wetlands or waters of the United States as defined by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, when the grading is proposed in an area that has been identified by the County as special-status species habitat, or when the grading is proposed in an area that might have historic or archaeological resources.
(b) Planning actions:
Upon request of a potential public or private project applicant, the Planning Department shall provide consultation before a project permit application is filed regarding CEQA environmental review considerations, including the range of actions, potential alternatives, mitigation measures, and any potential and significant effects on the environment. Such consultations are conducted through regular departmental processes, including the public information counter and paid staff consultations or pre-application conferences.
15.20.030 Adequacy of Project Description.
The project applicant shall submit information in the application to adequately describe a proposed project for the purpose of environmental review. This information requirement for application submittals include all the details needed to review routine projects. Large or complex projects may require additional information to complete an accurate environmental assessment.
The application shall include detailed information on site conditions, particularly any unique characteristics such as environmentally sensitive habitats. Design features or measures incorporated into the proposed project that are intended to avoid, reduce, or otherwise mitigate project impacts shall be described.
For projects that may use or generate hazardous materials, or that may pose a threat to public health or safety, information regarding the engineering basis and design of the project facilities and the effects of project operations is required.
For projects that require permits from other County departments or other agencies (e.g., California State Lands Commission, California Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service), the Planning Department may require information needed by such departments or agencies to accompany an application. Any information submitted to other departments or agencies shall be consistent with that submitted to the Planning Department.
Before the expiration of the period during which application completeness is to be determined, the Planning Department shall notify the applicant in writing of any deficiencies in the project description for purposes of environmental review. The applicant may submit a revised application in response to a finding of incompleteness.
All proposals or activities must be reviewed to determine if one of the following exemptions is appropriate, including if the proposal is not a project under CEQA:
15.24.010 Not a Project under CEQA.
If a proposed activity is not a project as defined by CEQA, it is exempt from CEQA review. Section 15378 of the State CEQA Guidelines lists examples of actions that are not projects.
CEQA applies only to projects that have the potential for causing a significant effect on the environment. Where it can be seen with certainty that there is no possibility that the activity in question may have a significant effect on the environment, the activity is not subject to CEQA. See State CEQA Guidelines Section 15061(b)(3).
15.24.020 Statutory Exemptions.
Certain activities have been exempted from CEQA by the State Legislature. These exemptions include feasibility or planning studies, ministerial projects, and emergency actions.
Pursuant to Section 15268 of the State CEQA Guidelines, the following activities are included within the class of ministerial exemptions:
1. Issuance of building permits and related permits (e.g., plumbing and electrical).Mixed ministerial and discretionary projects are considered discretionary and are subject to CEQA.
2. Demolition permits except where the structures are more than 50 years old and may be of historical, archaeological, or architectural significance.
3. Approval and installation of individual utility source connections and disconnections.
4. Issuance of certificates of occupancy.
5. Issuance of business licenses.
6. Approval of final subdivision maps.
7. Issuance of encroachment permits.
8. Issuance of load permits.
9. Issuance of permits to operate.
10. Issuance of food handling permits.
11. Issuance of public swimming pool permits.
12. Issuance of various septic permits.
13. Issuance of various well construction/destruction permits.
15.24.030 Categorical Exemptions.
Certain classes or categories of projects, subject to the exceptions listed in State CEQA Guidelines Section 15300.2, have been determined by the State of California to have an insignificant effect on the environment and are known as Categorical Exemptions. Currently, the State CEQA Guidelines (Sections 15301-15329) recognize 29 classes of categorically exempt projects.
Pursuant to Section 15300.4 of the State CEQA Guidelines, the County hereby adds the following activities to the list of classes 1, 3, 4, and 5 Categorical Exemptions of the State CEQA Guidelines:
CLASS 1: Existing Facilities (Section 15301)
|CUT AND EXCAVATION LIMITS|
|Existing Slopes||Cubic Yards|
|30% and above||Grading plans and environmental review mandatory|
|FILL AND EMBANKMENT LIMITS|
|Existing Slope||Cubic Yards|
|25% and above||Grading plans and environmental review mandatory|
CLASS 5: Minor Alterations in Land Use Limitations (Section 15305)
If a determination is made that the activity is exempt from CEQA, and the County approves or determines to carry out the project, the County may, but is not required to, file a Notice of Exemption with the County Clerk, and with the Governor's Office of Planning and Research if state resources could be affected. The notice may be filed by either County staff or an applicant. The notice shall include a project description, the location of the project, a finding that the project is exempt including its exemption type, and a brief statement of reasons to support the finding.
All projects not otherwise exempt from CEQA shall be subject to the following environmental review procedure, which provides for the preparation of Initial Studies, Negative Declarations, and EIRs.
15.28.020 Project Information Required.
The primary source of information for the Initial Study is the Environmental Information Form prepared by the applicant and received as part of the project submittal. The County may take up to 30 days to review the submittal and determine if it is complete. Once this decision is made, the applicant shall be notified by mail. If the application is deemed incomplete, the project sponsor shall be notified as to what additional materials are necessary to complete the application. Failure to provide information will delay the project.
15.28.030 Preparation of Initial Studies.
The Planning Department shall be responsible for the preparation of the Initial Study. Initial Studies may be prepared by staff or by consultants. The Planning Department may consult with other County departments, agencies, groups, and individuals, which may provide information and assistance to the Planning Department during this phase of environmental review. Other public agencies that may be responsible or trustee agencies for the project shall be consulted.
15.28.040 Content of Initial Studies.
The Initial Study shall include a project description, evaluation of environmental impacts that may be conducted using an environmental checklist supported by sufficient explanations, discussion of any potentially significant impacts and mitigation measures, and a draft mitigation monitoring program if warranted. Complex projects may require special studies to support the conclusions made in the Initial Study.
15.28.050 Mitigation Measures and Mitigation Monitoring Programs.
The Initial Study shall identify feasible mitigation measures that would enable potentially significant impacts identified in the Initial Study to be avoided or substantially reduced. Whenever feasible, mitigation measures shall be tangible, specific actions that will avoid or substantially lessen significant environmental impacts. Whenever feasible, mitigation measure descriptions shall specify the mitigation objective, specific mitigation actions to be taken, the entity responsible for implementation, and the implementation schedule.
15.28.060 Initial Study Determinations.
The Initial Study shall make a recommendation as to whether a Negative Declaration (no significant impacts), a mitigated Negative Declaration (mitigation identified for all potentially significant impacts), or a Draft EIR (significant impacts) shall be prepared for the project.
Initial Study determinations as to whether a project may have a significant impact on the environment shall be based on substantial evidence in light of the whole record before the County. Substantial evidence shall include facts, reasonable assumptions predicated on facts, and expert opinion supported by facts. Argument, speculation, unsubstantiated opinion or narrative, evidence that is clearly inaccurate or erroneous, and evidence of social or economic impacts that do not contribute to, or are not caused by, physical impacts on the environment are not substantial evidence. The existence of public controversy over the environmental effects of a project shall not require preparation of an EIR if there is no substantial evidence in light of the whole record before the County that a project may have a significant effect on the environment.
15.28.070 Consultation on Initial Study Determinations.
The County shall provide an opportunity for an applicant or County agency sponsoring a public project, once an Initial Study has been prepared, to correct inaccurate information or to provide evidence that might tend to establish that the conclusions of the Initial Study may be incorrect pursuant to State CEQA Guidelines Section 15063(g). Where a determination is made that an EIR is required, the applicant shall be notified immediately of this determination by certified mail.
Within five working days following receipt of notification to this effect, the applicant may, on condition of signing a 15-day extension of time for the Initial Study under State CEQA Guidelines Section 15102, request and receive a meeting with the Planning Director for the purpose of consultation to overturn the Initial Study finding to a Negative Declaration. The focus of the consultation shall be as follows:
1. The applicant may provide information to correct factual errors in the Initial Study.
2. The applicant may submit additional information to assist in deciding whether to prepare a Negative Declaration or EIR.
3. The applicant may propose mitigation measures to avoid or substantially lessen potentially significant adverse impacts to less-than-significant levels, thereby enabling the project to qualify for a mitigated Negative Declaration.
Any changes to the findings of the Initial Study based on the consultation shall be supported by substantial evidence to show a material error or incorrect conclusion in the Initial Study. Such evidence shall be documented by engineering reports or certified by a competent professional in the appropriate field, and shall consist of new material not already considered in the Initial Study.
Upon consideration of the information submitted, the Planning Director, within the 15-day extension period granted by the applicant, shall affirm, reverse, or modify the conclusions of the Initial Study and provide a copy to the applicant or sponsoring agency.
Following completion of the Initial Study, there shall be no further consultation with the applicant on the content of the draft environmental document except as deemed necessary by the County, until such time as the draft is circulated for public review and comment.
15.32.010 Preparation of Negative Declarations.
A Negative Declaration shall be prepared for non-exempt projects if:
For public projects, the sponsoring agency shall be responsible for preparing the proposed Negative Declaration and submitting it to the Planning Department for review. The Planning Department is responsible for determining the adequacy of the proposed Negative Declaration.
15.32.030 Private Projects.
For private projects, the Planning Department shall prepare the proposed Negative Declaration or cause it to be prepared by a consultant.
15.32.040 Content of Negative Declarations.
A Negative Declaration shall conform in content to that described in Section 15071 of the State CEQA Guidelines. Mitigation measures, if identified in the Initial Study, shall be incorporated in the Negative Declaration.
15.32.050 Public Notice of a Negative Declaration.
The Planning Department shall publish, in a newspaper of general circulation in the County, notification that a proposed Negative Declaration is available for public review and comment. The notice shall specify the review period, identify any public meetings or hearings on the project, briefly describe the project and its significant environmental effects, and state where the proposed Negative Declaration and all reference documents are available for review. The Planning Department shall inform by mail interested groups and citizens who have requested in writing such notification of the availability of a Negative Declaration.
15.32.060 Public Review of a Negative Declaration.
A proposed Negative Declaration shall be available for public review for a minimum of 21 days (if no State Clearinghouse review is required) or 30 days (if State Clearinghouse review is required).
15.32.070 Public Distribution of a Negative Declaration.
The Planning Department shall distribute copies of the proposed Negative Declaration to facilitate public review. Copies shall be mailed to responsible and trustee agencies and agencies with jurisdiction by law and to departments, agencies, groups, and individuals that may, in the Department's judgment by reason of expertise, jurisdiction, and interest, assist the County with its review. In addition, at least one copy shall be mailed to the County library for public review. Each proposed Negative Declaration shall be accompanied by a letter of transmittal indicating the end of the review period and the departmental contact person.
15.32.080 Public Hearing on a Negative Declaration.
The Planning Commission shall hold a public hearing on the Negative Declaration.
15.32.090 Comments on the Negative Declaration.
Comments on the Negative Declaration must be received by the Planning Department within the specified review period. Failure to receive written comments by the end of the review period shall be considered a presumption of no comment. The County shall not be obligated to respond to comments received after the termination of the review period, unless the Planning Commission determines that the public interest would be served by doing so.
15.32.100 Responses to Comments on the Negative Declaration.
The Planning Department is responsible for preparing responses to any comments received during the public review period. Responses shall be prepared for any comments raising significant environmental issues. These comments and responses to comments shall accompany the Negative Declaration submitted to the Planning Commission for consideration.
15.32.110 Consideration and Adoption of the Negative Declaration.
The Negative Declaration, including any comments and responses to comments and the mitigation monitoring program, shall be transmitted to the decision-making body for its consideration and adoption. The decision-making body shall consider the Negative Declaration, together with any comments and responses to comments, and adopt the Negative Declaration before approving the project. If mitigation measures are required, the decision-making body shall also adopt a mitigation monitoring program.
15.32.120 Determination by the Decision-Making Body That the Negative Declaration Is Inadequate.
If the decision-making body, at the conclusion of the public review period, determines that a Negative Declaration is not justified, it shall make the finding that the project will result in a significant adverse effect, thereby determining that an EIR shall be prepared. The decision-making body shall state the specific reasons for this finding and specify what additional information or analyses are necessary to more fully evaluate the project's potential for significant adverse effects.
When the decision-making body determines that additional information is required, the applicant shall be directed to provide the information. A determination by the decision-making body that an EIR is required may be appealed to the Board of Supervisors by written request. The decision of the Board of Supervisors is final.
15.32.130 Adoption of Mitigation Monitoring Program.
At the time the Negative Declaration is adopted, the Planning Commission or decision-making body shall adopt a program for reporting or monitoring mitigation measures that were adopted or made conditions of project approval.
15.36.010 Decision to Prepare an EIR on a Private Project.
If the Initial Study concludes that a project may have a significant adverse effect on the environment, the Planning Department shall notify the applicant in writing that an EIR must be prepared pursuant to Section 15081 of the State CEQA Guidelines. If the applicant wishes, this determination may be appealed to the Planning Commission following submittal of a written request.
If an EIR is required (either by determination of the Planning Department or by the Planning Commission's review of the Planning Department's recommendation), the applicant shall enter into a memorandum of understanding with the County pertaining to the roles, responsibilities, and procedures to be followed in preparing and completing an EIR.
15.36.020 Decision to Prepare an EIR on a Public Project.
When it is determined that a public project may have a significant adverse effect on the environment and that an EIR should be prepared, the sponsoring agency proposing to carry out the project shall prepare, or cause to be prepared, an administrative Draft EIR for submission and review by the Planning Department in accord with public department and agency responsibilities under these Procedures. The Draft EIR will be used by the Planning Department and sponsoring agency in the preparation of the Final EIR.
15.36.030 Contents of a Draft EIR.
The Draft EIR shall include all items required by CEQA and the State CEQA Guidelines; furthermore, the applicant shall supply such additional information as may be reasonably requested by the Planning Department.
When an individual project is part of a larger project, the EIR project description shall address the larger project. If the larger project is to occur in the future, the project description shall address the larger future project if it is a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the initial project and will likely change the scope or nature of the initial project or its environmental effects. Under these circumstances, the larger future project must be described even if it has not been approved and if the larger future project's environmental effects are difficult to precisely predict.
The Draft EIR shall contain a draft of the proposed mitigation monitoring program to make certain that mitigation measures can be monitored and to facilitate later preparation of the required mitigation monitoring program for approval by the decision-making body.
15.36.040 Review of the Administrative Draft EIR.
Following the preparation of an administrative (precirculation) Draft EIR by a consultant under contract to the County or by a public department or agency, five copies shall be submitted to the Planning Department. The Draft EIR must reflect the independent judgment of the Planning Department. If the Planning Department determines that the administrative Draft EIR is inadequate, it shall return the document to be revised to correct the deficiencies identified in the preliminary review. Once accepted by the Planning Department as an adequate Draft EIR, copies shall be transmitted to appropriate entities for public and agency review. Distribution of the Draft EIR marks the commencement of the Draft EIR review period.
15.36.050 Notice of Completion of a Draft EIR.
As soon as the Draft EIR is completed and ready for public circulation, the Planning Department shall file a notice of completion with the Governor's Office of Planning and Research.
15.36.060 Public Notice of a Draft EIR.
Within ten working days of accepting the Draft EIR, the Planning Department shall publish, in a newspaper of general circulation in the County, notification that a Draft EIR is available for public review and comment. The public notice shall specify the review period, identify any public meetings or hearings on the project, briefly describe the project and its significant environmental effects, and state where the proposed Negative Declaration and all reference documents are available for review. It must also include a statement indicating whether the project is on a listed toxics site. The Planning Department shall inform by mail interested groups and citizens who have requested such notification in writing of the availability of the Draft EIR.
15.36.070 Review Period for a Draft EIR.
The Planning Department shall establish a review period termination date that shall be observed unless conditions arise during the review period to warrant an extension of the review period. The minimum public review period will be 30 days (for projects not requiring State Clearinghouse review) or 45 days (for projects requiring State Clearinghouse review), unless the Planning Commission determines that it would be in the public interest to provide a longer review period.
15.36.080 Public Distribution of a Draft EIR.
The Planning Department shall distribute copies of the Draft EIR to facilitate the public review. Copies of the Draft EIR shall be mailed to departments, agencies, groups, and individuals that may, in the Department's judgment by reason of expertise, jurisdiction, and interest, assist the County with its review of the Draft EIR. In addition, at least one copy shall be mailed to the County library for public review. Each Draft EIR shall be accompanied by a letter of transmittal indicating the end of the review period and the departmental contact person.
15.36.090 Public Hearing on a Draft EIR.
The Planning Commission shall hold a public hearing on the Draft EIR. Notice of the public hearing shall be as follows:
Public comments must be received by the Planning Department within the specified review period. Failure to receive written comments by the end of the review period shall be considered a presumption of no comment. The County shall not be obligated to respond to comments received after the termination of the review period, unless the Planning Commission determines that the public interest would be served by doing so.
15.36.110 Evaluation of Responses to Comments.
After the review period for the Draft EIR closes, the Planning Department shall assemble all written comments and transcripts of comments made at the public hearing(s). These comments shall be transmitted to the consultant or public department or agency responsible for preparing the EIR.
Planning Department staff shall determine which comments address environmental impacts and mitigation. These comments must be responded to.
Comments addressing the following issues do not require a response, but should be noted for the record:
If "significant new information" is added to the EIR after the close of the public comment period but before certification, the County must provide a second public review period and recirculate the Draft EIR for comments. New information is considered "significant" when the EIR is changed in a way that deprives the public of a meaningful opportunity to comment. This occurs when the new information discloses:
15.36.130 Contents of the Final EIR.
The Final EIR shall consist of the Draft EIR, a list of persons and organizations who made comments, comments received, and responses to comments. Alternatively, the Draft EIR may be revised to incorporate responses to comments into the text of the report. If this format is used, the Final EIR shall consist of the revised Draft EIR, a list of persons and organizations who made comments, comments received, and an indication of where each comment raised is addressed in the revised text.
15.36.140 Review of the Administrative Final EIR.
Following the preparation of an administrative Final EIR by the consultant under contract to the County or by a public department or agency, five copies shall be submitted to the Planning Department. Responses shall be provided for all comments unless a response is not appropriate, in which case an explanation will be provided as to why a response is not warranted. The Final EIR must reflect the independent judgment of the Planning Department. If the Planning Department determines that the administrative Draft EIR is inadequate, it shall return the document to be revised to correct the deficiencies identified in the preliminary review. Once accepted by the Planning Department as an adequate Final EIR, copies shall be transmitted to appropriate entities for public and agency review. Distribution of the Final EIR marks the commencement of the Final EIR review period.
15.36.150 Review Period for a Final EIR.
At least 10 days before certifying the EIR, the Final EIR shall be provided to all agencies and individuals who commented on the Draft EIR.
15.36.160 Public Hearing on the Final EIR.
At the discretion of the Planning Commission or decision-making body, a public hearing may be held immediately prior to certification.
15.36.170 Certification of the Final EIR.
The Planning Commission shall certify that the Final EIR has been prepared in compliance with CEQA and satisfies the intent and purpose of CEQA, and that the information contained in the Final EIR was reviewed and considered. When the Planning Commission is not the decision-making body, the Final EIR shall be transmitted to the appropriate decision-making body for review, consideration, and certification prior to action being taken on the project.
If the Planning Commission or decision-making body determines to carry out or approve a project that the Final EIR indicates will have a significant effect on the environment, it shall make the findings pursuant to Section 15091 of the State CEQA Guidelines.
15.36.190 Statement of Overriding Considerations.
If the Planning Commission or decision-making body determines to carry out or approve a project that the Final EIR indicates will have a significant and unavoidable effect on the environment, it shall make a statement of overriding considerations pursuant to Section 15093 of the State CEQA Guidelines.
15.36.200 Project Approval.
The Planning Commission or decision-making body shall consider the contents, conclusions, mitigation measures, and alternatives contained in the Final EIR before taking action on the project.
15.36.210 Adoption of Mitigation Monitoring Program.
At the time the CEQA findings are made, the Planning Commission or decision-making body shall adopt a program for reporting or monitoring mitigation measures that were adopted or made conditions of project approval.
15.36.220 Subsequent EIRs, Supplemental EIRs, and Addenda to EIRs.
Following certification of a Final EIR, a Subsequent EIR shall be prepared if the conditions in State CEQA Guidelines Section 15162 apply, or a Supplemental EIR shall be prepared if the conditions in State CEQA Guidelines Section 15163 apply. A decision not to prepare a Subsequent or Supplemental EIR shall be based on substantial evidence, which may, but is not required to, be documented in an EIR Addendum.
15.36.230 Procedures When County Is Acting as Responsible Agency.
When the County is acting as a responsible agency, it shall comply with the following procedures:
Chapter 15.40 Joint CEQA/NEPA Document Process.
15.40.010 Memorandum of Understanding.
When a project is subject to CEQA and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Planning Department shall cooperate with the federal lead agency and federal cooperative agencies and prepare joint CEQA/NEPA documents whenever feasible. At the commencement of the CEQA and NEPA processes, whenever feasible, the Planning Department shall enter into an interagency memorandum of understanding with the federal lead agency establishing roles and responsibilities of both agencies. Specific procedures to be followed for joint CEQA/NEPA processes are contained in the State CEQA Guidelines, Sections 15220 et seq.
15.40.020 Use of a Consultant.
If a consultant is to be retained to prepare a joint CEQA/NEPA document, the Planning Department shall follow one of two procedures. The Planning Department may use the procedures established in Chapter 15.48 of this ordinance, in which case the federal lead agency representative shall be a member of the consultant selection committee, if feasible. Alternatively, the Planning Department may accept a consultant previously selected by the federal lead agency, in which case the Planning Department may directly retain an independent consultant to provide independent review of the joint document.
The County shall establish monitoring or reporting procedures for mitigation measures adopted as a condition of project approval to mitigate or avoid significant effects on the environment. Monitoring of such mitigation measures may extend through project permitting, construction, and operations, as necessary.
A mitigation monitoring program shall be prepared for any private or public, non-exempt, discretionary project approved by the County that is subject to either a Negative Declaration or an EIR and that includes mitigation measures.
Draft mitigation monitoring plans shall be included in proposed mitigated Negative Declarations and Draft EIRs. The draft monitoring plan shall be subject to public review and comment. The mitigation monitoring program shall be adopted at the time the Negative Declaration is adopted or the CEQA findings are made on the EIR.
The monitoring plan shall contain, at a minimum, the following:
Mitigation measure implementation shall be made a condition of project approval and shall be enforced under the County's police powers. Violation of a mitigation requirement, where a mitigation measure is to be implemented during construction, may result in the issuance of a stop-work order by the appropriate County permit-issuing authority until the matter is resolved by the Planning Commission.
Consultants may be used to prepare environmental studies, including Initial Studies, Negative Declarations, mitigated Negative Declarations, EIRs, mitigation monitoring programs, or any related study. The County shall independently review all environmental studies prepared by consultants. The goal of the following procedures is to ensure the quality and objectivity of the environmental studies and assist staff in a fair and efficient consultant selection process.
The County may decide to use a consultant for any aspect of the environmental process. In selecting a consultant for a particular project, the County shall first decide how broad the list of consultants should be for initial consideration, how many proposals it is prepared to consider, and how formal these proposals must be. The decision shall normally depend on the complexity of the project and the amount of time available for the selection process. Three general procedures may be employed:
The Planning Department shall maintain a list of qualified and interested consultants that prepare EIRs and related environmental documents. Applicants shall be asked to identify any additional consultants they believe are qualified to prepare needed environmental services and to identify consultants on said list with whom they have had previous experience and the nature of the experience. Applicants may request that a consultant(s) be added to the list. Staff shall evaluate the added consultant(s) in the same manner as other consultants.
15.48.030 Single-Source Procurement.
With this approach the County shall contact only one consultant for a given project or retain the same consultant on an ongoing basis. This process allows the County to develop and maintain a long-standing and satisfactory relationship with a consultant that is familiar with issues specific to the County and County procedures. Single-source procurement may be used when:
15.48.040 Selection from a List of Prequalified Consultants.
This procedure involves selection from a list of consultants whose qualifications are known to the County prior to selection. This approach shall include the following steps:
This system shall generally be used for large projects with consultant budgets of $25,000 or more. An RFP shall be sent to a minimum of five consultants. The County may hold a presubmittal conference to ensure that all respondents have a thorough understanding of the project. Consultants shall be asked to prepare a detailed written work program describing their proposed approach to completing the environmental study.
A work program shall include the following information. The environmental consultant is encouraged to include any additional items deemed desirable or necessary.
The Planning Director shall identify a selection committee of County staff to evaluate all proposals on the basis of predetermined criteria. These criteria shall include understanding of the project and its impacts, qualifications of the consultant (with special emphasis on the proposed project manager), demonstrated experience of the firm, availability of key staff, and cost. At the discretion of the Planning Director, an applicant may be invited to sit in on the interview process; however, an applicant shall not be a voting member of the selection committee.
15.48.070 Contract with Consultant.
The County shall enter into separate two-party contracts, one with the applicant, and one with the consultant to prepare the environmental documents. The work program submitted by the selected consultant shall become an appendix to the contracts.
15.48.080 Consultant-Project Applicant Communication.
County staff need not be present during discussions regarding verification of material already received, obtaining of additional factual information, or inquiries concerning details of the project. County staff shall be present for any discussion that goes beyond the foregoing, especially regarding what information shall or shall not be included in a document.
The applicant shall be responsible for paying all costs related to the consultant preparation and County independent review of documents. Before the County signs a contract with a consultant to prepare an environmental document, the applicant shall pay the County the estimated costs of preparing the document(s) plus the fee to cover minimum County review costs.
Generally, the provisions of this section shall apply to all appeals relating to environmental review. Decisions of the sponsoring agency may be appealed to the Planning Department; decisions of the Planning Department may be appealed to the Planning Commission; decisions of the Planning Commission may be appealed to the Board of Supervisors. Filing of an appeal shall stay all proceedings until the matter being appealed is resolved.
Decisions of the sponsoring agency or Planning Commission may be appealed by any person adversely affected by such a decision; however, decisions relating to the adequacy of Negative Declarations or EIRs may be appealed only by the applicant or by persons, organizations, or public agencies that submitted written comments pursuant to these Procedures or supplied oral testimony at a public hearing. Decisions of the Board of Supervisors as to the adequacy of environmental documents cannot be appealed.
15.52.020 Appeal Process.
Each appeal shall be accompanied by a nonrefundable fee as set forth in the Inyo County Schedule of Fees.
The appeal process may be initiated by filing a written appeal with the appropriate appellate body within 15 days following the decision to approve a project; adoption of a Negative Declaration or certification of a Final EIR may not be appealed until a decision has been made to approve or deny a project. Appeals shall not be deemed filed until received by the appellate body or that body's designated representative. Any member of the Board of Supervisors may, within the 15-day period, call for a review of any action of the Planning Commission by filing an appeal with the County Clerk.
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