Land Use 101

Over time more people have gravitated to both urban and suburban landscapes. Such population growth and settling in these areas often presents conflicting interests, especially as it relates to land use. City planning and zoning regulations have been established to address these issues.

The purpose of zoning is to manage potentially incompatible uses, and otherwise promote the efficient use of limited land resources. Zoning regulation and land use is typically overseen by local governmental agencies. Such governmental agencies must weigh the interest of current land owners to preserve the character of the locale (prevent new neighboring uses that could interfere with the enjoyment of others), while at the same time, foster the economic development of the community. As a result, any landowner who wishes to alter its current use must consider applicable zoning regulations prior to investing significant resources.

There are two common types of zoning modifications often sought by land owners: variations and special uses. A variation is relief that can be granted from specific limitations contained in zoning restrictions. It is often granted to allow a structure to be constructed in a manner which does not meet a zoning requirement. A special use is permission granted to a land owner for a particular use of the property, in a way not ordinarily permitted in the given zoning district classification. A land owner seeking any of the above relief must adhere to strict regulatory requirements to petition, to the applicable governmental agency. In addition, notifications are required to be sent to the neighboring property owners to allow them the opportunity to express their position on the perspective zoning change.

A land owner wishing a change, must submit a petition and participate in a public hearing. At that hearing, the petitioner/land owner must be prepared to demonstrate that the contemplated zoning change will not alter the character of the neighboring properties and or demonstrate that the perspective use will be handled in a way that will not adverse the impact of the health, safety, and welfare of the community. At the hearing, the neighbors are allowed to also express their position in otherwise, participate in the hearing.

Prior to investing significant funds for any project that could alter the land use, land owners must consider the zoning ordinance and or regulations to determine if such use is allowed. Land owners who seek such actions should consult with an attorney as to how best to present their petition for any zoning change.

If you would like more information on this topic, you can contact the author, Theodore McGinn, at (847) 705-7555 or