Property ownership does not grant an owner full right to do whatever he or she may wish to do with the property. A property owner must follow zoning regulations enacted by state and local governments when dealing with and making decisions regarding the property they own.
Sometimes zoning regulations may not allow for certain property uses that Arizona property owners want to pursue. If that is the case, an owner has two broad types of options - a property owner may ask for an exception to the regulation from the local government entity, or the owner may challenge the zoning regulation claiming that the regulation is either unconstitutional or improper.
Commonly, when a landowner wishes to request an exception to the existing zoning regulations, he or she will request a variance. To obtain a variance, a landowner must show that undue hardship will result if the landowner must conform to the existing zoning ordinance. Alternatively, a landowner may request a special permit, under which a landowner will be permitted a use that an ordinance has previously identified as a possible exception.
Sometimes zoning ordinances are passed after a redevelopment project has already been completed and structures are already in place. In this case, a property owner may be able to obtain permission for a lawful nonconforming use, also known as a continuing existing use. This type of exception may be granted where a business is operating on the property or if significant costs have been spent to develop the property.
Challenging the legality of a zoning ordinance, from the manner it was adopted to its constitutionality, is another way to potentially obtain zoning relief. However, this may be a more involved process.
A property owner facing zoning challenges may want to learn more about their options in light of existing zoning ordinances. From appearing before local regulatory bodies to request zoning relief, to preparing the necessary applications, being prepared to request the appropriate type of zoning relief is essential, and seeking legal guidance could help property owners with all the steps included in the process.
Source: FindLaw, "Options for Zoning Relief," accessed May 8, 2015