Choosing the optimal location for a new business or an existing business looking to expand is a major decision. Zoning regulations play a significant role in determining where and how a business can be established. As a business owner in a competitive market, you want to be where there is demand for your product or services. You conduct your market research and identify the ideal geographic area. Then, you identify a specific site for your needs only to discover that it’s not zoned for your proposed use. After much effort, you’re told to consider seeking a zoning change for the property.
What Does It Mean to Rezone a Site?
Rezoning is an amendment to the map of a zoning ordinance that affects an individual parcel or parcels of land. It is initiated by the property owner (or a tenant with the property owner’s permission) in order to accommodate a use not supported by the current zoning district.
Zoning districts are codified land use categories. The purpose of zoning districts is to ensure that land use in a community is compatible with its surroundings. Zoning districts commonly include residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural zoning districts, each with specific requirements governing density, parking, setbacks, height, and more.
The Rezoning Process
Rezoning a site is a complicated, multi-step process which requires detailed research and careful planning and consideration. Depending on the municipality’s process as well as the scope of the project, it can take anywhere from four months to nine months. The general steps involved in the process are outlined below:
- Preliminary Research: Conducting preliminary due diligence research to understand the zoning options in light of the municipality’s zoning ordinance, guiding documents, and the surrounding area.
- Consulting Local Authorities: Engaging in a well-prepared, strategic discussion with the local zoning officials about the proposal to address potential pre-application concerns.
- Application Submission: Preparing and submitting a well-reasoned application with a clear description of the client’s proposed use, optimal arguments related to the applicable criteria for review, and evidence in support of the client’s proposed zoning change. The application becomes public record, so it’s important to prepare it with great care and consideration.
- Public Meetings/Hearings: At public meetings and hearings, the applicant is given an opportunity to present the project and argue why it meets the criteria under the law. At these public meetings or hearings, members of the local government commission or board as well as residents are provided with an opportunity to voice their opinions on the proposed rezoning.
- Decision: Generally, the decision to rezone a site rests with the local legislative authority, a board, or council. However, every step in the process is crucial to ensuring ultimate approval.
It’s important to remember that if zoning regulations present a barrier to establishing a new business location, rezoning a preferred site can be a powerful tool that helps you gain a competitive advantage and sets you up for success. However, it’s a complicated multi-step process, so it’s important to work with an experienced team that can help guide you each step of the way.
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only. It is not considered legal advice on any subject matter. The information provided here does not create, and receipt of it does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon this information without seeking advice from an attorney licensed in your own state or country.