The Planning Department Mission is to guide land use and development consistent with the County General Plan, Zoning Code, and Federal and State regulations. The Mission is achieved by providing accurate, timely, courteous, and professional services to our community; to maintain the County’s unique quality of life; protecting public safety and the environment; and promoting economic vitality for current and future generations.
The Planning Department is responsible for the maintenance and implementation of policies and processes governing land use designations. The Department fulfills a mission that fosters economic vitality, supports resource conservation, and serves the diverse needs of County residents by working with the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission. An overview of services is provided below:
- Addressing: The planning staff is responsible for designating the physical situs address on all residential and commercial properties within Sierra County. It is also responsible for maintaining the Master Street Address Guide (MSAG), under Chapter 11.40 of the Sierra County Code. Situs addresses are assigned principally to provide for emergency services response. The County is not responsible for assigning or maintaining mailing addresses or zip codes, which are a U.S. Postal Servies responsibility.
- Agricultural Preservation: Sierra County participates in the California Land Conservation Act agricultural land preservation program, commonly known as the Williamson Act. The purpose of the act is to preserve agricultural and open space lands, by discouraging premature and unnecessary conversion to urban uses. Williamson Act contracts are established between the landowner and the County. For additional information on the Williamson Act program, visit California Department of Conservation or contact our office.
- Building & Grading Permits: Most building permit applications and all grading projects are reviewed by the Planning Department for code compliance.
- Environmental Reviews: The Planning Department is responsible for studying, analyzing, and disclosing the potential environmental effects of a proposed project, under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Department must also determine when a project is exempt from environmental review and for preparing appropriate reports and filing notices about the final determination of projects which the County decides to carry out or approve. For additional information, see Title 38 CEQA of the Sierra County Code.
- Floodplain Management: Sierra County participates in the National Flood Insurance Program in order to promote public health, safety, and the general welfare of its citizens. The Board of Supervisors adopted a floodplain management ordinance (Title 32 of the Sierra County Code) outlining the rules, regulations, and guidelines to implement the program.
- General Plan: The fundamental purpose of the General Plan is to protect Sierra County's existing rural qualities and address local concerns as the County grows. The Sierra County General Plan is the principal guiding document of development policies and, in a sense, the "constitution" for future growth and development in Sierra County. It is the Planning Department's responsibility to oversee its implementation and to analyze and process any proposed amendments to it. For additional information, please see: Sierra County General Plan.
- Mining (SMARA): The Planning Department implements the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act Program (SMARA). The department processes mining reclamation plans, inspects surface mining operations, and enforces compliance with State regulations and local ordinances. For additional information, please see Title 33 Surface Mining and Reclamation of the Sierra County Code.
- Property Boundaries: Over time, owners may wish to alter property boundaries through lot line adjustments, parcel mergers, or subdivisions. The Planning Department does not determine or locate property boundaries and easements for residents, which is a service of a private land surveyor. The Planning Department maintains all recorded Records of Survey and other maps that may help in this determination.
- Short-Term Rentals: On October 18, 2022 the Sierra County Board of Supervisors adopted a new zoning ordinance to regulate short-term rentals. Short-term rentals (STR) are residential units rented for 30 days or less, typically advertised as vacation rentals on sites like AirBnB and Vrbo. A permit is now required to advertise or operate a STR in Sierra County. For additional information, please visit the Short-Term Rental Page.
- Zoning: The zoning code is a comprehensive set of policies that directs usage of property within the county. Each parcel within the county has a zone assigned to it, and it is the responsibility of Planning Staff to enforce the rules and regulations of the zoning ordinances. The Department processes applications to change the zoning designations; amend the text of zoning ordinances; or proposed variances from the strict application of zoning guides in a pertinent situation. The department also processes applications for entitlements (or use) for discretionary review and approval of certain proposed uses of property that are otherwise not allowed "by right". For additional information, please see Sierra County Code Title 15 Zoning