There are some situations where you do not need to apply for rezoning, even though the zoning laws technically do not permit you to use your property the way you want:
- Non-conforming use: the zoning laws changed after you had begun using your property a certain way
- Conditional use: you are permitted to use your property in a way that violates zoning laws, as long as you comply with certain conditions
- Variances: you are permitted to use your property in a way that violates zoning laws, basically as an exception to the rule
If your use does not fall into one of these types and also violates the zoning laws, you will need to apply for rezoning.
A request for rezoning will involve the following steps:
- Submitting a rezoning application and fee to the local government agency that handles zoning
- Giving notice to nearby property owners of the requested rezoning
- Participating in open public hearings to discuss the change with local residents and government agencies
There are important people in your community to whom you can turn when applying for rezoning, especially if you need the rezoning to operate a business:
- Local business officials
- Trade and merchant associations
- Nearby property owners
By convincing these people that rezoning will boost the local economy by bringing in more business and employing local residents, you have a good chance of having them support you at the public hearings. This can be an important factor in persuading the zoning agency to grant your application.
A rezoning application may be only the first step in the rezoning process. If your request was denied, you still have a number of options:
- Appeal to the local appeals board: this may be required before you can file an appeal in court and is the best place to start if you cannot otherwise use your property, the rezoning would have no negative consequences, or the denial was otherwise unfair or unreasonable
- File an appeal in court: before doing this make sure you have a strong case because courts are likely to defer to a local government agency's decision
A real estate lawyer will be a valuable asset when public hearings are held about your rezoning application because these hearings are often involve building a case for how the rezoning will benefit the community. Also, depending on how far you are willing to go to appeal a denial, you will need a real estate attorney's assistance and expertise.