Chapter 4.9 –
Declaratory Ruling


4.9.100    Availability of Declaratory Ruling

4.9.200    Persons Who May Apply

4.9.300    Procedures

4.9.400    Effect of Declaratory Ruling

4.9.100 Availability of Declaratory Ruling

A.    Subject to the other provisions of this section, there shall be available for the City’s Comprehensive Plan and this code a process for:

1.    Interpreting a provision of the Sisters Comprehensive Plan or implementing ordinances (and other documents incorporated by reference) in which there is doubt or a dispute as to its meaning or application;

2.    Interpreting a provision or limitation of a development approval issued by the City in which there is doubt or a dispute as to its meaning or application;

3.    Determining whether an approval has been initiated or considering the revocation of a previously issued development approval;

4.    Determining whether a unit of land was lawfully created where there is doubt, a dispute, or, at the Community Development Director’s discretion, it cannot readily be determined;

5.    Determining the validity and scope of a non-conforming use; and

6.    Determination of other similar status situations under the Sisters Comprehensive Plan or implementing ordinances that do not constitute the approval or denial of an application for a permit.

Such a determination or interpretation shall be known as a “declaratory ruling” and shall be processed in accordance with this chapter. In all cases, as part of making a determination or interpretation, the applicable reviewing body shall have the authority to declare the rights and obligations of persons affected by the ruling.

B.    A declaratory ruling shall be available only in instances involving a fact-specific controversy and to resolve and determine the particular rights and obligations of particular parties to the controversy. Declaratory proceedings shall not be used to grant an advisory opinion on a specific quasi-judicial development application. Declaratory proceedings shall not be used as a substitute for seeking an amendment of general applicability to a legislative enactment.

C.    Declaratory rulings shall not be used as a substitute for an appeal of a decision or for a modification of an approval. In the case of a ruling on a City development approval, a declaratory ruling shall not be available until 60 days after a decision is final.

D.    The Community Development Director may refuse to accept, and the applicable reviewing body may elect to decline to decide, an application for a declaratory ruling if:

1.    The question presented can be decided in conjunction with the review of a pending application; or

2.    The requested determination should be made as part of a decision on a development application not yet filed; or

3.    There is a pending proceeding in another venue in which the same issue necessarily will be decided and the applicant is party to those proceedings.

The Community Development Director’s or Planning Commission’s determination to not accept or to deny an application under this section shall be the City’s final decision. [Ord. 533 § 3 (Exh. R), 2023; Ord. 486 § 2 (Exh. B), 2018].

4.9.200 Persons Who May Apply

A.    The following persons may initiate a declaratory ruling under this chapter:

1.    The owner of a property requesting a declaratory ruling relating to the use of the owner’s property;

2.    In cases where the request is to interpret a previously issued development approval, the holder of the approval; or

3.    In all cases arising under SDC 4.9.100, the Community Development Director.

No other person shall be entitled to initiate a declaratory ruling.

B.    A request for a declaratory ruling shall be initiated by filing an application with the Community Development Department and, except for applications initiated by the Community Development Director, shall be accompanied by such fees as have been set by the Community Development Department. Each application for a declaratory ruling shall include the precise question on which a ruling is sought. The application shall set forth whatever facts are relevant and necessary for making the determination and such other information as may be required by the Community Development Department. [Ord. 486 § 2 (Exh. B), 2018].

4.9.300 Procedures

Unless the Community Development Director elects, at the Community Development Director’s discretion, to elevate the decision to the Planning Commission, the Community Development Director shall process the request administratively (Type II procedure) following public notice (which is required for a Type II or III procedure as applicable) and an opportunity for parties to comment. Any proceedings before the Planning Commission shall occur at a duly noticed public hearing (Type III procedure).

An application for a Declaratory Ruling shall plainly state the issue(s) presented, contain sufficient information for the applicable reviewing body to understand the nature and extent of the issue(s) presented, contain copies of any applicable decisions, development code provisions, or excerpts from the Comprehensive Plan, and should include a narrative explaining the applicant’s position on the issue(s) presented and supporting rationale, evidence, and authority. [Ord. 486 § 2 (Exh. B), 2018].

4.9.400 Effect of Declaratory Ruling

A.    A declaratory ruling shall be conclusive on the subject of the ruling and bind the parties thereto as to the determination made.

B.    Section SDC 4.1.700.I notwithstanding, and except as specifically allowed therein, parties to a declaratory ruling shall not be entitled to reapply for a declaratory ruling on the same question. [Ord. 486 § 2 (Exh. B), 2018].