Four tips to consider when rezoning your property…
There are a variety of reasons to rezone your property. Maybe you own agricultural ground and want to develop a residential subdivision or maybe you envision a commercial strip center on that perfect corner in your home town. Regardless of the reason, below are a few practice tips I suggest for anyone rezoning property.
My perspective on the rezoning (entitlement) process stems in large part from my experience as an attorney representing developers, my time spent as a planning commissioner, and my educational background in urban planning graduate school. Those three life experiences have caused me to view the entitlement process with an eye for what works and what can potentially cause long delays in the process.
Understanding the Community
Before you even begin to consider whether or not to rezone property, you should understand the tolerance of the community for change. Changes in the use of property spark emotions in people. This axiom may be true even for those that do not live near the property. What I like to have is an idea of how the community feels about the subject parcel. Do children play there? Do some consider it a wildlife refuge? Are there historical uses tied to this property? Now obtaining this understanding will involve meeting with the neighbors, researching the property’s history, and talking with people generally about the proposal. This is time well spent and can help you prepare a proposal that is acceptable to the community.
Review the Code and Comprehensive Plan
This sounds simple but it is critical to understanding what is required for the rezoning process. Many communities across the nation require that any rezoning be in conformance with the comprehensive plan. Reviewing the comprehensive plan will not only outline what may be allowable for a rezone but will also show you the vision the community has for that particular area of land. Many communities treat the comprehensive plan as document that should not be modified unless there are very compelling reasons for doing so. Others treat the comprehensive plan as something that can be modified on a case by case basis. Understanding how the community and the planning commission views the comprehensive plan same may save thousands of dollars in project costs.
Develop a Checklist of Critical Dates
The entitlement process is driven by deadlines. Missing one can set your project back months. What I suggest is that you review the code and the planning staff’s submission schedule to develop your checklist. You can then coordinate the submission schedule with the schedule of your professional team (architects, surveyors, traffic engineers, legal, etc.).
Not all communities require a neighborhood meeting but I highly recommend meeting with the neighbors. This really goes back to understanding your community and trying to build a project that neighbors can support. As a planning commissioner, I loved to hear that developers had met with the neighbors and attempted to address their concerns. Now not all concerns can be addressed, some are either impractical or financially unfeasible. Either way, it is best to understand those concerns before your public hearing and attempt to address them.
Those are my top tips to consider when contemplating rezoning property. There are always other issues with any project but understanding the community and the neighborhood are probably the most critical. The key takeaway is that generally you can work through the technical issues of a project but without support from the community, even the best project may fail to win approval.