The Planning Department offers a variety of services intended to preserve and enhance the quality of life for those who visit, live and work in our community. The Department guides the physical development of the City of St. Helens in a manner that encourages sustained growth and helps protect the character of the community. The Department is responsible for the City's current land use development issues and long range planning. Through these efforts the Department reviews development proposals, and prepares and administers plans, policies and regulations in accordance with federal, state and local law and policy. The Department also provides technical support to the City Council, Planning Commission, Historic Landmarks Commission and others. Additionally, the Department is responsible for the interpretation and enforcement of the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Community Development Code (St. Helens Municipal Code Title 17).
The Planning Department deals with a multitude of things such as zoning, land use, signs, land division, wetlands, historic preservation, floodplains (as designated by FEMA), vacations of rights-of-way, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), etc. In addition, the Department reviews other permits, such as building permits, to ensure compliance with the Community Development Code. The Department also coordinates with other agencies ranging from Columbia County, the State of Oregon and the federal government. Though, the Department’s primary goal is to serve the citizens of St. Helens.
A number of proposed land uses should include a discussion with the Planning Department to ensure your project will be in compliance with the City's Community Development Code. For example, you should inquire with the Planning Department if you want to build or add onto a house, build a garage or carport, install a fence, divide or adjust the dimensions of your property, install/modify a sign, use an area for a temporary event, remove a tree within or near a wetland or stream, or establish a new use on vacant property. In fact, there are certain circumstances where there is no permit or review required by the City, but certain development laws still apply. It’s always smart to check with your Planning Department before starting a project to help avoid problems and legal complications later on.