Professional Planning Support

LACO’s Planning Team offers local agencies and municipalities a trusted partner to help support the timely processing of applications and preparation of necessary environmental documents to facilitate the development process. Given the revenue shortfalls associated with COVID-19, the lack of qualified staff available in many rural jurisdictions, and the pressure from applicants and elected officials to review projects expeditiously, Planning Departments today face a multitude of challenges as they work to ensure safe, intentional development in their communities. We recognize the challenges these Departments face, we see the impacts of these challenges on the pace of development in the private sector, and, most of all, we see the projects that are delayed or abandoned entirely in our communities as a result. The LACO team is here to bridge this gap to help support local governments fulfill their obligations to assess and approve development in their jurisdiction.

  • Initial Studies (IS)
  • Negative/Mitigated Negative Declarations (MND)
  • Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Programs (MMRP)
  • Statutory and Categorical Exemptions
  • Section 15183 Streamlining Analysis
  • Peer Review
  • Project Management
  • Environmental Assessments
  • Findings of No Significant Impact
  • Categorical Exclusions
  • Subdivision Review
  • Affordable Housing Project Review
  • Public Outreach Processes; including design charrettes, public scoping, and visioning
  • Wildfire Impacts and Mitigation General Plan and Zoning Ordinance
  • Project Management

Our team members have prepared more than a 1,000 environmental planning and permitting documents. Most of LACO’s senior Planning staff has worked on “both sides of the counter” and understands the development process intimately from both perspectives. Our team has provided on-call and contract planning services throughout the North Coast for years, including for the Counties of Humboldt and Mendocino, and we are here to leverage that expertise into comprehensive support for local Planning Departments through these challenging times. We are here to integrate with your team, build your organizational capacity, and help provide a smoother, more rapid turnaround on development applications and environmental review documents.

“[LACO’s] knowledge of CEQA was instrumental in their development of an environmental document which could support the ordinances through our hearing processes. They worked with local and state agencies and other interest groups in the preparation of the CEQA document. It proved to be one which was supported from many different environmental interests, bringing a consensus by groups, that has been on the opposite sides of the fence for decades… the support that LACO has given our staff has been very important through this whole process. We have worked as a team and no matter what direction we were headed, they were by our side the entire way. Trust is probably the word that comes to mind when thinking of our working relationship with them.”

Mary Lynn Hunt, Chief Planner, County of Mendocino

Meet Our Team

Portrait of Mike Nelson

Michael Nelson, AICP

Mr. Nelson has extensive experience in project management, financial pro forma statements, entitlement, environmental compliance, sustainable design, design, construction, and operation of hospitality projects, commercial facilities, residential developments, subdivisions, and municipal planning projects. Mr. Nelson is LACO’s expert on the planning and entitlement process. Mr. Nelson has managed projects from due diligence phases through commissioning and Certificate of Occupancy phases in Northern California, the Central Valley of California, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Bermuda for many complex entitlement, development, and construction projects, as both an owner’s representative and private consultant.

Portrait of Elizabeth Burks

Elizabeth Burks, AICP

She also serves as a Project Manager for municipal, non-profit, and private sector projects from entitlement through construction. She currently manages several municipal on-call contracts. Prior to joining LACO she was a Senior Planner with the County of Humboldt where she worked for 8 years. Her project experience includes infrastructure improvements (water, sewer, power, airports and roads.), affordable housing, government facilities, commercial proposals, coastal development, residential subdivisions, and development affecting sensitive species and habitats. She routinely prepares and presents written reports and oral testimony to decision makers such as Planning Commissions and Board of Supervisors. She has established positive and productive working relationships with project proponents, state agencies, local governments, service districts, and tribal governments. Ms. Burks’ also has expertise in the Brown Act and Public Records Act.

Ms. Burks is an affordable housing advocate having served as Board Member and Board President of Housing Humboldt, a non-profit affordable housing provider, from 2005-2017. During her tenure Housing Humboldt build Humboldt County’s first housing complex for individuals with mental illness that were also chronically homeless, in addition to completing home ownership opportunities through a housing land trust and rehabilitation of older housing complexes.

Portrait of Byron Turner

Byron Turner

Mr. Turner most recently served as the Principal Planner for the Lake County Community Development Department and was previously the Assistant Director of the San Benito County Resource Management Agency, where he spent over two years as the Interim Planning Director while the County restructured in uncertain economic times. As an experienced CEQA practitioner, Byron is familiar with all levels of CEQA analysis, managing EIRs for large projects, writing and reviewing Initial Studies for Mitigated and Negative Declarations, and utilizing all types of exemptions, including Section 15183 exceptions. In addition to filling the roles of Associate and Principal Planner in San Benito County, Byron also served as a Planner and Code Enforcement Officer in the County of Imperial. His history in the Public Sector working for these Counties provide the unique perspective of seeing projects “from the other side of the counter”. Working for primarily small, rural counties has also allowed Byron to have experience in a wide range of project types requiring CEQA analysis, from industrial scale energy projects and Planned Developments, natural resource extraction and SMARA compliance, and cannabis development and permitting, to minor subdivisions and use permits, ordinance development, and General Plan and Housing Element updates.

Rebecca Dalske

At LACO, she has experience with a variety of projects, including: the preparation of environmental documents pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); the management of both private and public sector multidisciplinary projects; the preparation and coordination of permit applications, and supplementary plans and reports in compliance with local, State, and Federal requirements for both public and private clients; and the development and implementation of County programs spanning multiple County departments.

Megan Marruffo

She has extensive local, State, and Federal agency permitting experience for a variety of residential, commercial, and industrial planning projects. Ms. Marruffo specializes in the preparation of environmental review documents pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and provides project assistance for an array of different projects, including but not limited to subdivisions, annexations, General Plan amendments, zone reclassifications, conditional use permits, lot line adjustments and parcel mergers, coastal development, infrastructure improvements, and design review.

Some of Ms. Marruffo’s other experience includes technical writing, scope of services and contract development, air quality analyses, zoning and general plan interpretation, and preparing a variety of report types, such as technical memorandums, development feasibility analyses, mitigation monitoring and reporting programs, operations plans, and project descriptions.

Samantha Thomas

As an Associate Planner, she has experience preparing regulatory permit applications for private clients as well as reviewing permit applications for local jurisdictions. Ms. Thomas specializes in the preparation of local, State, and Federal agency permits for a variety of residential and commercial planning projects and provides project assistance for an array of development projects, including subdivisions, annexations, lot line adjustments, and coastal development permits. Ms. Thomas’s experience also includes preparing environmental review documents pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), scope of services and contract development, and preparing a variety of report types, such as technical memorandums, development feasibility analyses, and project descriptions.

“I have had the opportunity to work closely with Mike in recent years and have been consistently impressed with his professionalism, knowledge and commitment to his employers and clients. He has also developed a strong staff of Certified Planners with an impressive depth and range of experience.”

Robert S. Wall, AICP, Supervising Planner, Advanced Planning, County of Humboldt, Building and Planning

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