As a Florida landowner, you want to be able to use your property for what you want. However, zoning laws often get in the way.
Zoning laws are local rules that place limits on what property owners can do with their land. These laws can be very helpful to landowners by preventing things like factory owners attempting to set up shop in a residential neighborhood.
However, for all their protections, zoning laws can also be a nuisance by preventing harmless activities and limiting your ability to use your home as you like.
What Is Zoning?
Property parcels are usually “zoned” to keep the use of property consistent in each area. Typical types of property zoning include:
- Residential property;
- Commercial property, like shopping malls;
- Industrial zones, like business parks and factories;
- Designated agricultural land;
- Rural zones;
- Landmarked or historical zones; and
- Any type of zone or land use designation appropriate for your area.
While these represent some basic property zones, the rezoning of property can happen over time as residents’ needs change. For instance, what happens when there are no dedicated commercial zones in a booming young city? Or if a natural resource is discovered nearby, but the city has no industrial zones to process the mineral?
Property rezoning can be a challenging process for homeowners and businesses alike. In this article, the BrewerLong team will guide you through the basic steps for rezoning property. As experienced Florida agribusiness lawyers, we’ll also share some frequently asked questions we receive from clients as they navigate the property rezoning process.
What Does it Mean to Rezone Property?
Rezoning property simply means changing the “zone” or “use designation” from one thing to another. For instance, if your home is in a residential-zoned area, you’ll have restrictions on using your land for commercial purposes.
This means you likely won’t be able to raise chickens in your backyard and open a commercial egg processing facility. You might own acres of land and have more eggs than you can eat; however, residentially zoned areas usually prohibit commercial and agricultural activity, especially farming.
But suppose you lived on a nice, wooded four-acre lot in a distant suburb of your city. You can’t even see your nearest neighbor’s house. No one has ever complained about the chickens. Not a single person in town has ever turned down your fresh eggs, either! In that case, it might be a good idea to try to get your property rezoned for mixed commercial, agricultural, and residential use.
What Are the Steps For Rezoning Property in Florida?
Most property rezoning is done at the local level. Cities or counties each have their own process. We will share some tips and tricks on how to rezone land from a Florida-wide perspective. However, we’ll be sure to note where you should check your local ordinances.
1. Understand Your Property and the Surrounding Area
Surveying your land is a critical first step in rezoning your property because you need to understand its official boundaries. You will need that information on hand when you request zoning changes.
You’ll also want to truly know the community around your land. Has it changed from farmland to strip malls for miles, seemingly overnight? Was it once a small cluster of stately homes, and now you’re surrounded by tracts of high-density housing?
Understanding the community is a second key piece in requesting a property rezoning. You will likely need to justify your desired changes to a city planning commission or city council. Make sure you understand what you are asking for and why. Know why the change you are asking for is important to the community as well.
2. Talk with Neighbors and Nearby Landowners
If you are serious about rezoning property, you must get your neighbors on board with your plan. Changing your home or property’s zoning may change the face of the area in many ways, including increasing traffic and noise.
Thus, any property zoning will more than likely affect your neighbors and their enjoyment of their land. Make sure to help your neighbors understand that your proposed rezoning will benefit the entire community.
3. Review Local Rules and Zoning Ordinances
Understanding zoning rules in your area is the fastest way to prepare for your property rezoning request. You can perform online research using your area’s government websites, including your local city council or planning board.
Speak with a qualified Florida land-use lawyer who can help you understand the nuances of these laws.
4. Prepare Your Application for Rezoning Property
Once you have completed the first three steps in the process, you are ready to begin your application. Property rezoning applications and processes can vary widely from city to city.
When you are ready to complete your application to change your land-use designation, call your local government. City planning departments are almost always happy to meet with you and help you understand how to complete their rezoning application.
To support your request, you may have to submit surveys, traffic reports, environmental reports, and more. You will likely also have to pay fees.
5. Undergo a Local Planning Commission Review
Once you have put your completed property rezoning application in the mailbox or clicked the upload button on your county’s website, the planning review will begin.
The length of time it takes for your local planning commission to review your application can vary widely. During this time, they may send you requests to revise some of your submitted materials or ask you to provide additional information.
6. Meet With Local Property Rezoning Officials
The final step in most property rezoning matters is a public hearing. Sometimes, this is a hearing before the planning commission. Other times, it may be a hearing before the entire city council.
During this hearing, your neighbors, local businesses, and others will have a chance to speak about the proposed rezoning. You will also have a chance to speak in support of your request. If you choose to speak, this is a good time to publicly emphasize the benefits of the changes you wish to implement.
After the interested parties are heard, your request for rezoning property will be considered and voted on. If the commission or local government approves your request, you can go home and look forward to enjoying your plans for the rezoned land. If they deny your request, then you are always able to try again to persuade them.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Rezone Land
How Long Does it Take to Rezone a Property?
The property rezoning process timeline can vary widely from place to place. In Seminole County, for instance, the county provides an approximate six-month estimate for how long it takes to process an application and make a decision.
In other places across Florida, or if you need to seek approval from more than one governing body, the process may take longer.
You will also need to prepare studies and reports before making any application for rezoning property. While gathering information can take a long time, failing to collect information can result in your application being rejected without proper consideration.
How Much Does it Cost to Rezone a Property?
Rezoning property can cost as little as a few hundred dollars to many thousands, depending on your goals and the jurisdiction’s application requirements.
A simple adjustment to your zoning status so you can legally operate your home-based internet business may cost you only the few hundred dollars it costs to file the application. However, transforming a few acres of your rural property into a working farm may require costly studies, reports, and applications to different authorities.
Speaking with a Florida agricultural lawyer can provide you with the best resources to understand that kind of rezoning.
How Do You Change Zoning from Residential to Agricultural?
Changing zoning from residential to agricultural is like filing any other type of property rezoning application. In some circumstances, rezoning can be easy. In other situations, it can be significantly harder.
For instance, rezoning is typically easier if you are a rural residential-zoned homeowner than if you are an urban, high-density zoned homeowner.
While there are urban farming districts, typically, these have been carved out of former commercial or industrial zones and not residential ones. You can learn more about urban farming through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s programs and see if it is right for you. If it is, it might be worth the fight to rezone urban residential land into agricultural spaces.
Regardless, a Florida agricultural lawyer can help you navigate this transition.
How BrewerLong Can Help
We are a preeminent Florida business and agribusiness law firm providing land use, water use, business advice, and more to businesses like yours. We’ve helped Florida landowners for decades through every transition in the agricultural business. We can help your business too. We pride ourselves on our client focus and on delivering high-quality, individualized legal services to you and your family. Contact us today to learn more about our legal services.
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