Looking to develop a property? Before getting started, check local zoning regulations

posted by Nicholas Vitti July 12, 2017
zoning regulations

Understanding municipal zoning regulations is the first step for property development

Land use and development may prove complicated even for a seemingly straightforward project. Whether you wish to expand a single-family home or you are a commercial developer constructing a large-scale mixed-use project, you must have a detailed knowledge and understanding of the local zoning regulations and their effect on your project.

The local zoning regulations are governmental controls that dictate what you can and cannot do with your property. The regulations differ from municipality to municipality. They govern the type of uses that are permissible on a property as well as limits on the buildable bulk, area, and height. The regulations also provide the procedures that a property owner or developer must follow to receive approval for development.

CHECKLIST: How do zoning regulations impact proposed property development?

  • Is the intended use of the property allowed in the zoning district where the property is located?
  • Is the intended use consistent with the Municipality’s Master Plan of development?
  • Does the proposed development exceed the bulk, area and height requirements of the zoning district?
    • If not, are there legally non-conforming aspects of the property that may continue?
    • If not, is a variance (permission from the local Zoning Board of Appeals to vary the zoning regulations to allow something otherwise not permitted based on legal hardship) possible? Is there the requisite ‘legal hardship’ necessary for a variance?
  • Do prior zoning approvals or denials impact the parcel and the current plan?
  • Is the property is located within a flood or coastal zone triggering additional restrictions?
  • Does the property contains wetlands or a watercourse? Is permission required from the local wetlands commission or environmental protection board prior to or in conjunction with zoning approval(s)?
  • Is the property located within a special district such as a redevelopment boundary, design district, or village district and how does this designation affect the plans?
  • Is a separate architectural review needed for proposed buildings and/or structures?
  • Are any existing buildings and/or structures on the property designated historic?
  • What type of permit(s) is needed for the proposed development?
  • Is site plan approval required? Is conditional approval, such as special permit approval or special exception approval, required?
  • What type of application should be filed? Are pre-application filings or meetings with staff required or advisable?
  • What are the neighbors’ sentiments regarding the proposal? Can you anticipate opposition to the plans?

These are just some of the inquiries that should be made – and due diligence of this type is advisable before property is purchased, to ensure that the property is suitable for the proposed development. By consulting with counsel who can guide and spearhead the process, you can avoid costly and time-consuming delays. Cacace, Tusch and Santagata can help.

Subscribe to receive our quarterly newsletter with law tips, case studies and firm news.