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The Challenges of Zoning Regulations


On the surface, you’ve found the ideal property. It matches your criteria and checks all of the boxes. Except one. It’s not zoned to meet your needs. Now what? Back to square one?

Thankfully, no, that’s not always the case. This is where the process of rezoning comes into play.

And from gathering background materials to garnering local support to presenting a proposal at a public hearing, there are a number of steps to take to complete the process.

No two rezoning applications contain the same exact parameters, so the likelihood for rezoning approval is case specific and there are hurdles to overcome. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable challenges of zoning regulations.


Community Opposition/Public Hearings

Depending on the scope of a project, the zoning/planning board may require a specially advertised public hearing on a project for either the initial presentation or subsequent hearings.

When neighboring property owners have objections to the rezoning of your parcel of land, they’ll have the opportunity to offer their comments and concerns during these hearings and before the zoning commission makes its decision. This feedback can typically lead to lost time and added costs for a project.

Bringing Building Into Compliance

Zoning codes and building codes serve different purposes, yet they are closely related. Local planning and zoning hearings often mandate that any zoning or use change will only be authorized if the subject parcel is brought into full compliance with existing building code statutes.

Current criteria must also be met by certain site improvements as well, including:

  • Landscaping

  • Water retention

  • Parking requirements

General Plan Issues/Conformance

In general, a property owner has a better chance of approval when the rezoning request is consistent with the long-range general plan of the municipality. Municipality general plans provide a foundation for zoning but should also allow for flexibility of future conditions and ideas.

Issues that often arise may occur when there is an error in the original zoning for the property, or when changes have occurred which prevent use of his land as originally zoned. Extensive arguments/justifications need to be presented in order for municipalities to revise the general plan and/or approve rezoned property.

Need for Infrastructure Improvements

Zoning/planning boards typically want to approve development projects that include off-site improvements that create infrastructure improvements to the community. The creation of needed new roads, sewer systems, landscaping, and donations of land to be used for other community projects are often considered the developer's cost of doing business in the community.

Requiring concurrency between infrastructure development and new construction is an appealing option for planning officials because it prevents communities from being overwhelmed by growth.

Project Concessions

It’s also likely that planning commissions may ask for concessions in order for rezoning/approval to be granted.

Certain features may be altered or added to a project including:

  • Reduced signage

  • Controlled lighting

  • Landscaping

  • Removing or limiting access points


Depending on municipal requirements, it may take up to three months to get on a zoning/planning board's agenda. As previously mentioned, the board may require special public hearings on particular projects, a phase that can draw out the length of the rezoning process.

Additionally, controversial projects that face greater community opposition are often tabled to allow for greater community input, and often see multiple hearings

When approaching zoning regulations, the key is to know what the requirements are prior to embarking on your business plan. This better prepares all involved parties for the challenges of zoning regulations, how to handle them, and hopefully ensures your commercial real estate development project is suited to meet those requirements.

Commercial Real Estate Development Process Zoning Tenant Buyer

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