Special Uses are activities which, because of their unique characteristics, potentially could generate greater impacts than uses permitted in a zoning district.  Due to these greater impacts, special uses are not granted as a matter of course but must be reviewed and approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission at a public hearing.  If approved, the permit allows only the specific use requested by the applicant in addition to any other uses permitted by right.  A Special Use is different than a rezoning.  A rezoning allows a whole range of uses permitted in the specific district.

Special Uses are most commonly used in Rural areas.  There are 43 special uses listed in the rural zoning districts.  RV parks, golf courses, air strips and firearm ranges are among the land uses that can be considered as Special Uses.

How Long Does the Process Take?

Under ordinary circumstances, the process takes about 6 weeks. If extensive research such as an in-depth environmental or traffic analysis must be completed, the time needed to review the application could be extended. Special uses are reviewed by the County Health and Highway & Floodplain Departments as well as applicable state and local agencies such as fire departments and nearby cities.

Site Development Standards

Standards such as structure height, screening, paving and setbacks apply to special uses as they do to all permitted uses.  The Commission can modify or waive these standards or add standards if a good reason is provided.

Additional Requirements

Additional requirements related to public health, safety and welfare can be imposed by the Commission.  For example, they could adopt a requirement limiting the hours of operation of an auto repair shop to daylight hours if the shop is located next to somebody’s home.  Or the Commission could require an RV park to pave a dirt road if the road is used by RV’s for entering and exiting.  Conditions are sometimes requested by other entities such as the County Highway & Floodplain and Health Departments or fire departments or State agencies.

What Happens If I Sell My Property?

The Special Use Permit can be operated by the new owners so long as it is not changed or expanded.  A different use or major expansion requires a new permit.

Public Input

Prior to submitting an application for a special use, potential applicants are required to have a pre-application meeting with Planning staff to discuss their proposal as well as go over the Citizen Review Process – a process to notify neighbors of the proposal, required of applicants before they submit their application.

Once an application is submitted, property owners within 300 feet of the site (1500 feet in Category D areas) are notified of the proposed special use request by the Planning Department.  If the special use request proposes an intensive use, such as an airstrip, shooting range or power plant, then the notification is extended to one mile from the proposed site.  A legal notice is placed in the local newspaper and posted on the property at least 15 days before the Commission meeting.  A public hearing will be held by the Planning and Zoning Commission to accept input from people who support, oppose or simply have questions about the project.  After the hearing is closed, the Commission votes to approve, approve with conditions, disapprove or table the request.


The Commission makes the final decisions on Special Uses.  However, if you or someone affected by your proposed use do not agree with their decision, it can appealed to the Board of Supervisors within 15 days of the decision.

When Can I Operate My Business?

If the permit is not appealed, you can operate your business when:

  • The Conditions Acceptance Form is signed.
  • All applicable conditions are met.
  • The Building Permit Fee is paid and the permit is issued.
  • The site is inspected and is in accordance with the site plan approved by the Commission and applicable County regulations.

Submittal Requirements

  • Application Form/Questionnaire

  • Building Permit Application (additional fees required)

  • $300 Fee

  • 6 Copies of a complete Site Plan: See Handout On How to Draw a Non-residential Site Plan

  • Citizen Review Report

  • Additional information as needed depending on the nature of the Special Use.

The process will not begin until fees and all information needed to evaluate the Special Use are submitted. 


Commission meetings are held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 4:00 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors Hearing in Bisbee, 1415 Melody Lane, Building G.

Submittal Deadline: 45 days before the Commission Meeting.