You may require a zoning variance for your commercial project if your business is different from the zoning use specified for the particular area. Variance, in these kinds of cases, is necessary whether you want to build, lease, or buy. You would need to contact the local planning or zoning board to request a variance or an exception to the current zoning type before you proceed to open your business.
Zoning variance can be complicated with numerous rules and regulations at play. It is recommended that you consult with a hard-working real estate attorney in Alabama to understand the procedure and available options.
Who Makes Zoning Decisions in Alabama?
A zoning variance is a restriction that allows a particular piece of land to be used for purposes other than the ones stipulated at the time of zoning of that area. Localities and municipalities allow variances for enterprises when they present valid reasons for their requirements. The enterprise will need to demonstrate that the variance will not interfere with or reduce the property values of other local residents.
Typically, zoning decisions are made by the zoning or planning department within the municipality. These departments are responsible for proposing zoning ordinances and overseeing land use and zoning hearings. They are also responsible for making decisions regarding conditional use permits, variances, and other issues related to land use and zoning ordinance laws.
The first procedural step in obtaining a zoning variance will be to attend the public hearing. You would be asked to present your case to the department at this hearing. The government has allowed the public to make comments regarding individual proposals or complaints. You can always appeal the decision made by the department to a court if it is unfavorable or unfair.
Applying for a Zoning Variance
It is important to understand that zoning variance is not a change in the zoning law. It is a specific waiver of requirements as laid down by the zoning ordinance. Variances are typically granted when the property owner is able to demonstrate that existing regulations are making it practically difficult to use the property.
There are individual rules for each municipality in Alabama to seek variance requests. Generally, the landowner needs to request the variance through a written application in the prescribed format. There is a fee associated with the request that needs to be paid at the time of filing the request form.
Generally, the requests are first sent to the zoning board regardless of the municipality. The board is responsible for notifying adjacent and nearby property owners. The zoning examiner is required to hold a hearing as well for determining if the variance is necessary and should be granted. The applicant is then required to appear before the city council or governing body of the municipality. This is when the final determination takes place.
When is a Zoning Variance Necessary?
Zoning permits allow a property to be used for a purpose different from the one designated by the zoning authority. This is only till the time the business or enterprise doesn’t impact the neighborhood negatively. Zoning permits are similar to variances.
You may need to apply for a zoning variance or permit in a number of situations, such as:
- If you are considering a modification or construction of a building that will alter the area’s classification
- You want to change the use of an existing building to a different classification
- You desire to construct on vacant land
- You want to alter the use of your land to another type of zoning
- You want to bring changes in a non-conforming use, such as changing the current zoning requirements of a ‘grandfathered’ building
What is Conditional Use Permit?
Conditional use permits allow a property to be used in a different manner as specified by the zoning code. Typically, these permits are granted in front of a political body at a public hearing. They are accompanied by the understanding that the building’s new use is not going to be determinantal to the public.
Generally, nonconforming uses are disfavored. A wide variety of restrictive techniques are implemented in most cases that can be generally upheld. Common restrictive techniques used are:
Penalties for Violating Land Use or Zoning Regulations
Individuals violating land-use regulations are usually subject to injunctions. This is a formal order that allows or bars an individual from doing something. In addition, violations of land use regulations can subject an individual to damages if the party has suffered economic losses because of the violation. Both government and private entities are subject to land use violation lawsuits.
Speak with a Knowledgeable Real Estate Attorney
Zoning variances and changes open up a whole world of possibilities for a particular property. They may have a disastrous impact if not sought after following due consideration. It is recommended that you consult with the competent real estate attorneys at BHM Law Group to discuss possible changes and make the right decisions. To request a free consultation, call us at 205-994-0902 or contact us online.