Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to obtain a permit?
Many activities do require a permit but many people do not know what kind of permit, how long it will take to get the permit, what the cost of the permit is and where they obtain it. At Adobe Associates we believe that guiding you through the permit process is essential for reaching your project goals. Our extensive experience and constant updating of processes and regulations allows us to give good sound advice in processing a permit.
Do I need a Use Permit for my project?
As stated directly from the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department's website: "The purpose of this form is to identify the information and materials required for a Use Permit application. The Sonoma County Zoning Code sets forth both uses that are "Permitted" and "Uses Permitted with a Use Permit." A Use Permit application is required for development projects that are typically more intensive than Permitted Uses. Use Permit applications often require a public hearing before the Board of Zoning Adjustments; when processed with a Zone Change and/or a General Plan Amendment, the public hearing will be before the Planning Commission. Examples of uses requiring a Use Permit are: wineries, kennels, contractor storage yards, planned developments and mixed use projects. Use Permits are discretionary in nature, and, if approved, will include conditions of approval. A Use Permit can only be approved if found to be consistent with the Sonoma County General Plan, Sonoma County Zoning Code and, applicable Area or Specific Plan and if found to be compatible with the health, safety, and welfare of the neighborhood." See Sonoma County PRMD website for further information.
What is a NPDES Permit?
This acronym stands for National Pollution Discharge Elimination System and pertains to the discharge of stormwater. Depending on the nature of your proposed improvement project, you may need to obtain this permit from the State Water Resources Control Board. Adobe Associates has several Certified Quality Stormwater Developers and Practitioners on staff and can assist you with this stage of your project. If you would like further information on NPDES, you may visit the State Water Resources Control Board by accessing their website, here.
How do the State General Construction Permit and local grading permits work together?
The General Construction Permit and the local grading permits have common goals in that the permit requirements address the preservation of water quality in surface runoff from construction sites. The regulatory requirements of the local agencies must be as strict or stricter than the State water quality regulatory requirements.
The State General Construction Permit regulates construction projects causing soils disturbances of one or more acres. Local grading permits typically follow the California Building Code and required grading permits for construction sites moving more than 50 cubic yards of material or causing more than one acre of disturbance. Please check the local permitting agency in your project area for the specific requirements.
Local grading permits require a grading plan that shows the limits, grades, and quantity of soils to be moved and an erosion and sediment control plan to show the plan measures to control erosion and sediment transport from the project site. Sediment can be transported by surface water or wind.
The General Construction Permit requires a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) which identifies all of the potential pollutants from the construction activities, the best management practices (BMPs) to be used to reduce and eliminate pollutant migration from the site, site monitoring and inspections, water quality sampling, annual reporting, and record keeping.
The Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) is responsible for the inspection and enforcement of the General Construction Permit requirements. Local agency inspectors and code enforcement staff are responsible for the inspection and enforcement of the local grading permit and stormwater ordinances.
Public agencies hold municipal stormwater permits with the State and the RWQCB are responsible to ensure that the public agencies are effectively regulating, inspecting, and enforcing to maintain storm water quality. It is common for the local agency inspector to be the person most commonly inspecting the project sites. When compliance becomes problematic local inspectors may engage higher levels of enforcement including RWQCB inspectors. While local agencies conduct enforcement, the enforcement actions issued by the RWQCB may be much heavier than those issued by the local agency.
What is a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and when is it needed?
Projects which disturb one or more acres of soil, or projects which disturb less than one acre but are part of a larger common plan of development that in total disturbs one or more acres of land, are required to obtain coverage under the General Permit for Discharges of Storm Water Associated with Construction Activity (Construction General Permit, 99-08-DWQ). Construction activity subject to this permit includes clearing, grading and disturbances to the ground (e.g. stockpiling or excavation). The permit does not include regular maintenance activities performed to restore the original line, grade or capacity of the facility.
The Construction General Permit requires the development and implementation of a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). The SWPPP should contain a site map (or maps) which shows the construction site perimeter, existing proposed buildings, lots, roadways, stormwater collection and discharge points, general topography (both before and after construction) and drainage patterns across the project. The SWPPP must list Best Management Practices (BMPs) that will be used to protect stormwater runoff and the placement of those BMP measures. In addition, the SWPPP must contain a visual monitoring program, a chemical monitoring program for "non-visible" pollutants to be implemented if there is a failure of BMPs, and a sediment monitoring plan if the site discharges directly to a water body listed on the 303(d) list for sediment.
Site owners must notify the state, prepare and implement a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP), and monitor the effectiveness of the plan. The plan, which must also address control of pollutants in stormwater post-construction, does not have to be submitted to the Regional Board but must be on site and available to inspectors.
For additional "Frequently Asked Questions" regarding SWPPPs, QSP/QSD or the State General Construction Permit, please visit the State Water Resources Control Board website.
What is an industrial SWPPP?
The purpose of an industrial stormwater permit is to confirm that industrial facilities properly monitor and control stormwater discharges and their impacts to the environment. Through preparation of a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) report, potential sources of pollutants in storm-water discharges are identified.
What are Best Management Practices (BMPs)?
Best Management Practices (BMPs) include schedules of activities, prohibitions of practices, maintenance procedures, and other management practices to prevent, eliminate, or reduce the pollution of runoff to the receiving waters. BMPs also include treatment requirements, operating procedures, and practices to control site runoff, spillage or leaks, sludge, or waste disposal and drainage from raw material storage.
What is a Notice of Intent (NOI)?
A Notice of Intent (NOI) is part of the required Permit Registration Documents, which provides information on the owner, location, and type of project and which certifies that the owner will comply with the conditions of the Construction General Permit.
What is a Notice of Termination (NOT)?
A Notice of Termination (NOT) is formal notice submitted by the owner or developer to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) that a construction project is complete and the project has met the conditions to terminate the permit.