Property owners who want to rezone their land are trying to change the land use designation that the property was originally given.
Whatever your reason for wanting to rezone, you’ll need to know as much about the process of doing so before you begin.
Rezoning is long, difficult, expensive, and complicated.
While it can yield the desired results, it can also result in a disappointing verdict.
If you’re looking for all the ways to make your rezoning application a success, read on!
We’ve got the top things you should know about rezoning land in this blog.
1. What is zoning?
Property zoning is often governed by local county or city laws (also known as ordinances).
Land will be zoned for certain uses such as residential or commercial purposes.
It will also designate the density, height, yard setbacks, etc.
For the most part, where rezoning is concerned, the use of the land is the primary concern, and this is what landowners are most interested in adjusting.
2. Why is zoning important?
Because zoning law dictates what you can do on the land, most people seek to rezone land because they want to use it in a way that is not currently allowed.
Perhaps they want to create a residential subdivision, build an apartment complex, or create a business.
While you may see one location as the perfect opportunity for your potential project, it may not be zoned correctly.
So, what do you do?
Getting land rezoned is the way that you can get around the rules set in place.
Petitioning to have the law changed might not always be easy, but it can open up a whole new path for you as the landowner.
3. What are the different zoning types?
Zoning categories and symbols vary among jurisdictions.
As a result, you’ll likely need to do your research on the local regulations where you are attempting to buy and rezone land.
Here are some of the major types of zoning classifications that you’ll come across.
Single-family residences, suburban homesteads, houses, duplexes, trailer parks, co-ops, and condominiums.
Often, residential zoning will limit the type of animals that are allowed at the residence.
They may also regulate the types of home-based businesses that are permitted.
Almost any type of real estate other than single-family homes and single-family lots.
As a result, commercial zoning varies quite a bit, including office buildings, shopping centers, nightclubs, hotels, certain warehouses, and some apartment complexes.
This type of zoning may be specific to a certain type of business.
Environmental factors (noise concerns and industrial use) will often determine into which industrial zone a business falls.
For example, you may find manufacturing plants and storage facilities have industrial zoning while airports may fall into their own category.
Agricultural zoning is generally used by communities that are concerned about maintaining the economic viability of their agricultural industry.
It will limit both the density of development and non-farm use land.
This category is most often used to designate farms and ranches.
This is mixed-use zoning, which can allow a variety of the above uses.
If homes or buildings are 50 years old, they may be included in historic zones.
These regulations will prioritize keeping structures in their original condition.
Often, historic zoning properties can qualify for government tax incentives.
4. How do I find out what my land is zoned for?
To change the zoning of your property, you must first know what your property is zoned for initially.
To do this, obtain a copy of the zoning map and the ordinances applicable to the property.
You’ll likely be able to get these from your local government office dealing with land use (either the local planning, zoning, or building department).
Once you have the map, you’ll be able to check your property’s designation and refer to the zoning ordinances to check what is permitted.
It’s always worth reading the fine print and ensuring that you need to go through the rezoning process before you start it. (You don’t want to pay that fee if you don’t have to!)
5. How do you change zoning?
There are a few things to know before you rezone land.
It can be expensive, complicated, and time-consuming.
Not to mention the fact that there are no guarantees.
You can go through the entire process only to be denied.
This is why a lot of landowners won’t pursue it.
It can be greatly rewarding, or it can be horribly disappointing.
Nonetheless, if you’re interested in pursuing it, there are several steps you’ll need to go through.
We’ll name them here so you can investigate them for your specific property and area.
Look at your property:
You’ll have to justify the proposed change you want to make to the property.
So, ask yourself before you even go in, what convincing argument can you make on behalf of your property?
What changing conditions make a case for rezoning?
Is there population growth?
What about a new road or sewer line that has changed local dynamics?
The burden falls on you as the petitioner.
You’ll want to think about your property and the area around it in order to build a convincing case.
This is where having a local expert who has gone through the process before can help.
Read up on the local rules:
Every area has different zoning rules.
Start researching your area and find out what your current zoning regulation is.
What can you do or not do?
Talk to the people in your local planning department and put your best foot forward in any conversations you have.
They will be reviewing your application and eventually making recommendations about your zoning request.
If you have some influence with them, you’ll have done yourself some good.
Talk to your neighbors:
We hate to break it to you, but your neighbors do have some influence in your rezoning case as well.
Some landowners like to keep their rezoning project under the radar, but neighbors will be notified and have a chance to voice their opinion.
Although you can’t please everyone, it doesn’t hurt to hear what they think and consider that as you’re going through the process.
Apply according to your local requirements:
Your application will consist of numerous forms, surveys, maps, traffic studies, mailing labels, etc.
Be meticulous and double-check that you’ve provided everything that your planning department requests.
You will also need to pay an application fee depending on your city.
Often, this fee is anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
Again, this process is expensive!
Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
Wait for review:
The planning staff will review your request and then develop a recommendation for the local planning commission and legislative body.
To make a convincing case, be as involved in this process as you’re able to be.
Be present, show them what you intend to do, and provide whatever the planning staff needs.
This is your opportunity to tell them what you want to do and discuss how you’ve talked to the neighbors to gauge their opinions.
You should be open to their responses and arguments and revise your plans to meet those concerns if you’re able to do so.
Planning commission meeting:
The planning staff will complete its analysis and your request will go to the planning commission.
From there, they will make a recommendation to the local governing body.
Because this is a public meeting, anyone can attend.
You will want to be there to answer any questions or concerns.
Although a position recommendation is helpful, it is not necessary to move forward.
Your case will head to the legislative body next.
Attend a legislative body meeting.
The local legislative body will hold a public hearing and vote.
You will once again have the opportunity to speak at this meeting, and you’ll want to take advantage of it to make your case.
If the vote is in your favor, you’ve officially rezoned land.
If not, then you will be able to appeal their decision.
The appeal process will often take anywhere from 2 to 4 months.
Be sure to emphasize that the rezoned property will not cause any negative effects to the surrounding area and express why you feel the board’s initial decision was wrong.
Was it not supported by the facts you originally stated?
Where did you disconnect?
After that, if you’re not successful with your appeal, you can reapply.
However, there may be a time restriction on how soon you can try again.
Double-check whether this is relevant in your area.
And keep in mind that you’ll likely need to provide even more substantial evidence if you’re already received a denial to rezone your land.
6 How long will it take for you to hear back about your rezoning request?
There’s no clear-cut answer to this question.
The time length depends on a number of factors including the jurisdiction, the rules, and how complicated your request is.
So, depending on your specific situation it could take a couple of months to a year.
7. Who has a say in the rezoning of the land?
Ultimately, the planning staff and planning commission will offer an analysis and recommendations before there is a legislative body meeting that decides whether your land will be rezoned.
However, it is important to note that locals – people in neighboring properties – will also have the opportunity to offer comments and concerns just like you do at any of the meetings.
You can attend to provide additional information, and they can attend to support or denounce your application.
This is why it’s important to talk to the neighbors before they hear about the public hearing.
8. Is it likely my rezoning request will be approved?
You may be thinking, “What are the chances I can actually get this project approved?”
After all, who wants to go through this and spend the time and money without any sort of guarantee?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if your rezoning request will be approved because no rezoning requests are alike.
Often, your chances of success will depend on how the property is used and if there are any future plans for surrounding properties.
To increase your chances, be sure to consult local experts.
A real estate lawyer can help you get your application in order before the zoning commission reviews it.
9. What’s the difference between rezoning land, zoning variances, and special use permits?
Zoning exceptions – where applicable – are easier to obtain than zoning changes.
If you don’t have to rezone your land altogether, why would you?
A zoning exception may be the way to go.
We’ll talk about two types of zoning exceptions called special use permits and zoning variances.
What is a special use permit?
A special use permit allows you to use land in a way that is not typically permitted as long as you adhere to a number of conditions.
If zoning recently changed in an area, a special use permit may be used to “grandfather” in land that was using the land a certain way up until the rezoning.
Keep in mind that use permits often expire upon any sale or transfer of the land.
So, just because someone else ran a business on residential land before you purchased the property doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be able to do so yourself.
You’ll have to go through the process yourself and obtain your own special use permit.
What is a zoning variance?
A zoning variance allows you to use the land in a way that would typically be a violation of the local zoning.
Most often, variance requests are granted if an owner demonstrates that hardship is created because of special conditions or circumstances on the land.
If these special conditions or circumstances make it difficult to comply with the zoning requirements, then having an exception would allow the landowner to use it more readily.
10. Who can help me get my property rezoned?
Getting your property rezoned can be a long process, and you want to make sure you do it correctly from the start.
A real estate lawyer who is experienced with rezoning can greatly improve your chances of success.
They will help you prepare your initial application and craft a convincing argument in favor of rezoning.
Are you ready to rezone land?
Get started on your application today by following the tips above as well as advice from a local real estate attorney.
Additional ResourcesIf you are looking to buy affordable land, you can check out our Listings page. And before you buy land, make sure you check out Gokce Land Due Diligence Program. If you are looking to sell land, visit our page on how to Sell Your Land.
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.