How to Rezone Property

Three Parts:Researching Zoning and Other Municipal RulesApplying for RezoningAppealing a Zoning Decision

Most counties and municipalities have specific zoning specifications for every property within the community, including residential, commercial, industrial agricultural and mixed use. Within each class are subcategories that specify building details like frontage and land requirements. Often, a property owner would like to rezone a property so that it can have a different use. The most common need for rezoning is when an owner wants to open a business on a property that is zoned for residential use or to change a commercial property from one type of zoning to another. The steps for rezoning vary by location, but there are a few common steps to follow when figuring out how to rezone property.

Part 1
Researching Zoning and Other Municipal Rules

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    Find out the zoning category for the neighborhood in which you are interested. Contact the local municipal planning and building department. Ask them into what zoning category your desired neighborhood falls. [1]
    • A typical zoning category is single-family residential. This means that the principal permitted uses of property in this neighborhood include single-family dwellings, churches, schools, parks and community facilities.[2]
    • A multi-family residential zoning district allows multi-family structures. These include condominiums, townhouses, duplexes, apartments and group homes.[3]
    • A transitional zoning district is at the junction of commercial, residential, public and industrial areas. This means that residential lots exist near busy roads with many stores or other commercial buildings. Residential properties are allowed to have limited office or commercial space, but the residential character of the home must be maintained.[4][5]
    • Mixed-use zoning areas are common in high-density population areas where commercial, residential, cultural and industrial properties must coexist. These zoning districts allow a mix of single-family and multi-family residential units with commercial businesses and services. This kind of zoning results in compact development, which allows for efficiency of land use while reducing energy consumption and transportation costs.[6][7]
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    Determine if your plans for the property fit in with the zoning category of the neighborhood. Decide how you want to use the property. Compare your ideas with the zoning category of your neighborhood. This will tell you whether or not you need to apply to rezone your property. Your real estate agent or attorney may be able to help you.[8]
    • If you plan to run a home business in an area that is zoned residential, you will have to check with the municipal rules to see if it is allowed. Some municipalities allow exceptions for certain kinds of businesses, like a home child care.[9]
    • Remodeling and landscaping plans may run into zoning issues. Some ordinances and zoning rules prohibit adding structures, cutting down trees, changing the layout of a house, or even changing the paint color or putting up a fence. Keeping farm animals and parking oversized vehicles or boats may also be disallowed.[10]
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    Find your local zoning rules and ordinances. Visit the website of your local municipality and county. You will find information about zoning ordinances there. Also, you can go to your local office of planning and building in person and request a zoning map for the area. This will let you see how the property is zoned. The clerk in the office or a zoning officer will be able to answer many of your questions about how the property is zoned and whether you will need to apply for a variance, or a request to break the set zoning law.[11]
    • Historical sites typically have very strict restrictions on the property’s appearance and how the property is to be used.
    • Your local government may have developed long-range plans that impact the way property is zoned. If your request to rezone property doesn’t align with the long-term goals of the municipality, it might be difficult to get the variance.[12]

Part 2
Applying for Rezoning

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    Submit an application. Go to the office of planning and building in your municipality. Ask for an application to petition for rezoning. You will need to know the existing zoning classification of the property and the category to which you want to change it. Bring a map and parcel number of the property with you.[13]
    • You will need to specify the existing land use and how you plan to use the property differently.
    • Fees for the application vary depending on the size of the property. Expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 for less than an acre to $5,000 for 25 acres or more.[14]
    • Know the time limit for submitting an application. Your municipality will require you to submit your application within a certain amount of time before the next scheduled meeting of the planning commission.
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    Provide public notification. Some states require that all petitions for zoning variances be published in a local newspaper. This is to inform area residents that you are proposing a use for the property that may impact surrounding properties, roads or public utilities. You will need to publicize your petition within a specified amount of time prior to the meeting of the zoning board. The date time and place of the meeting must be stated. Your municipality may also specify which newspaper you must use.[15]
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    Prepare for a review of your application. The zoning board will review your application. First, they will do an on-site inspection of your property. They will also assess neighboring properties to determine the potential impact of your petition on them. They will review existing public services and consult with any relevant municipal departments to see how rezoning could impact surrounding land uses. Finally, they will review existing municipal ordinances, rules and any long-range plans for land use in the municipality.[16]
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    Wait for a recommendation from the zoning board. If the board deems that your request aligns with existing land uses and municipal ordinances and long-range plans, then they will recommend that the rezoning request be granted. They will recommend a denial if they believe that the rezoning request would conflict with ordinances or potentially harm the surrounding property. In making these recommendations, the board considers the health and welfare of the applicant, the adjacent neighbors and the entire community.[17]
    • You will receive written notification of the board’s recommendation and their findings prior to the public hearing.
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    Attend a public hearing. The zoning board will vote on your rezoning request at their next scheduled meeting. These meetings are open to the public. It gives local residents an opportunity to express their support or opposition to your zoning request. The zoning board will then vote to recommend or deny your application.[18]
    • They may also vote to grant you a zoning variance that is different from what you requested but which is more closely aligned with the needs of the community and local ordinances.
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    Wait for legislative action. In some states, if your request is recommended, it is then sent to the local city council or county commission for final action. This governing body needs to vote to finalize approval of your application. This process may take up to two months. The city council or county commission may require a public notice period before hearing the request. Also, they may have a mandatory waiting period after the hearing before finalizing the approval.[19]

Part 3
Appealing a Zoning Decision

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    File an appeal with your city council or county commission. If your zoning application is denied, you may be able to file an appeal with your local governing body. You will have to pay additional filing fees. The appeal process may take up to two months to go through the system. An appeal must be filed within a specific time period after the public hearing for your zoning application.[20]
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    Dispute the zoning board’s decision. You have a chance of convincing your governing body to reverse the zoning board’s decision if you can show that the decision deprives you of your right to use the property. Demonstrate how your intentions for the property do not negatively impact the surrounding area. Also, point out whether the board’s decision was arbitrary or was not supported by the facts. In addition, you might be able to demonstrate that the board’s decision did not meet the legal requirements for an adverse decision.[21]
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    File a lawsuit in circuit court seeking a certiorari review of the decision. If the city council or county commission denies your appeal, you can file a lawsuit in circuit court. The circuit court will perform a certiorari review of the case. This means that they will request a transcript of the proceedings in order to review the case.[22]
    • The zoning board will submit a transcript and sworn copies of the record to the circuit court.
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    Wait for a decision from the court. The court will either affirm, reverse or modify the zoning board’s decision. In most cases, the circuit court defers to the ruling of the zoning board. Even if the court would have made a different decision, it usually upholds the zoning board’s ruling as long as it is supported by the evidence and is in accordance with the law. If the court does overturn the zoning board’s decision, the case will be sent back to the zoning board along with the court’s recommendations. [23]

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