Zoning laws and regulations control the ways in which a property owner can use his or her property. When considering a property purchase or development project, informing yourself of applicable zoning regulations can save you financial loss in the future.
Many properties may be subject to more than one set of regulations. In addition to city and county rules, you may need to deal with particular area or neighborhood restrictions. Sometimes, historical or environmental regulations may restrict uses of or activities on the land in question.
Getting a variance
In some cases, you may be able to obtain a zoning variance for a particular use that differs from the normal regulations. Generally, the local zoning authority issues decisions on variance applications.
Factors affecting success
Your chances of success for a particular application can depend on many factors. Some authorities grant variances easily while others adopt a more stringent approach. When considering a variance application, authorities typically consider how the proposed use will affect the area. Metrics may include likely changes in traffic flow, whether similar variances have already been granted and how far the proposed use will differ from already allowed activities in the area. The feelings of neighboring property owners can also affect the disposition of a variance application.
Making informed choices
Even if you do obtain a variance, you may still face additional restrictions as to the type of building, activities and vehicles you use. The variance allows you to use the property for an atypical purpose, but it does not exempt you from following neighborhood plans, environmental protections and other limitations. For this reason, it is important to learn all you can well in advance so that you can weigh your options. Going forward without the right information can result in legal penalties as well as considerable financial loss. An experienced attorney with local knowledge can help you anticipate potential hurdles and advise you as to your options.