Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Planning Commission


March 13, 2008

Staff Lead:


Kimberley Johnson, Zoning Administrator


Community Development



A Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment to Sections 5-014 and 5-015 to Clarify Existing Expiration Rules and to Establish an Expiration Date for Special Permits and Special Exception Uses After A Period of Inactivity


Topic Description:

Under the existing Zoning Ordinance regulations, a special permit or special exception approval expires after one year if the activity it authorizes has not commenced. The proposed text amendment clarifies that where commencement of the use is dependent on acquisition of additional permits or approvals, diligent pursuit of such additional approvals within one year will also keep the permit from expiring.  Currently, once a use approved by special permit or special exception commences, the use remains authorized forever, unless a time limit is set as part of the approval.  The proposed text amendment would establish that special permit and special exception uses expire after a two-year period of inactivity.     


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:

Conduct a public hearing and consider adoption of the attached Ordinance.


Financial Impact Analysis:

No financial impact analysis has been conducted.


Summary Staff Report:


The proposed text amendment clarifies existing provisions related to the expiration of administrative permits, special permits and special exceptions.  It also provides for the expiration of special permit and special exception uses that have ceased operating for a period of two years or longer.


One clarification proposed is to move language related to the expiration of permits from a section on the revocation of permits to the section on expiration of permits. 

Staff is also suggesting a clarification to the rules regarding expiration of permits where uses were never started.  Section 5-014 of the Zoning Ordinance states that the activity authorized by a special permit or special exception must be “established and construction authorized shall be diligently pursued within such time as the permit specified, or, if no such time has been specified, then within one (1) year after the effective date of such permit or exception.”   Public uses are exempt from the one-year expiration requirement.   While the language states that the use must be established and construction diligently pursued within one year, it is often problematic to do both in cases where a building is being built or where another significant approval process is required before the use can begin.  A use can hardly be established before the building is approved and built, and therefore more time is needed in these cases.  In other cases, such as floodplain crossing special exceptions, the lengthy process for revising the floodplain through FEMA often follows the special exception approval making it impossible for construction to commence within one year.   Staff is suggesting the language be modified so that the expiration will not occur if the use is established or construction is diligently pursued within one year; this revised language is consistent with how the provision has been applied.

Expiration After Cessation of Activity

The major change proposed with this amendment is to establish that a special permit or special exception use, once established, will expire after any two-year period of inactivity.  This issue of expirations was recently brought to staff’s attention because of a request for Zoning Administrator interpretation related to the Linden Quarry, which is actually two quarries on adjoining properties with associated asphalt and concrete plants, approved by special exception in the 1950s and 1970s.  All operations at the facilities ceased in 1988.   The owners requested an interpretation as to whether the Quarry could resume operations without approval of a new special exception.  As detailed in the attached interpretation (Attachment 2), the conclusion reached by the Zoning Administrator was that no approvals are required to restart the operations under the existing language of the ordinance.  This conclusion was based largely on Section 5-015 of the Zoning Ordinance, which specifically states that a Special Exception “shall be valid for an indefinite period of time” unless an expiration date is specified in the approvals.  In the Linden Quarry case, no expiration dates were specified.

Special Permit and Special Exception Uses, by definition, are those with potentially greater impacts than by-right uses.  The Special Permit/Special Exception process provides an opportunity for nearby residents to discuss their concerns about a proposed use and allows the County to impose conditions on the use to control potential impacts.   If significant time has passed since a use has operated, it may be reasonable to re-evaluate the restart of the use through a new Special Permit/Special Exception process.  The language proposed would establish that permits expire after a two-year period of inactivity unless a condition of approval specifically establishes otherwise.  Unless the zoning has changed since the original approval, the opportunity for the use to be re-established through the Special Permit/Special Exception process would always be available.   As drafted, the expiration provision would apply to existing approvals as well as new approvals.

The Planning Commission initiated this text amendment on November 29, 2007 and held a public hearing and unanimously recommended approval of the amendment on January 31, 2008.

Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Department of Economic Development


1.      Proposed Zoning Ordinance Revisions

2.      Linden Quarry Interpretation 

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