Navigating Land use and Zoning a Guild for Residential Realtors
I am often contacted by Realtors in my community with questions about Land Use and Zoning. The questions usually go like this:
“My client wants to build an Auto Repair Shop on a vacant lot. The seller said it was ok, but I was told it was not zoned for it.
Well, what is it actually zoned for? Can the Zoning be changed?”
What if, instead of an Auto Repair Shop they wanted another use such as a professional office, duplexes, apartment building and even manufacturing facility?
All too often, they are looking for a quick and easy answer. Usually, one that will help them complete a quick and easy transaction. Unfortunately, the answer they are looking for is not always going to be either quick or easy.
Zoning is just one aspect of a much larger Growth Management Plan. To get a better understand, lets it break it down to the essential parts.
- Florida Statute 163
- Local Comprehensive Growth Management Plan
- Future Land Use
- Zoning Districts
- Land Development Regulations
Even though each part of the Growth Management Plan has individual rules and regulations that need to be followed throughout the land development process. You cannot look at each aspect in a vacuum. They are designed to be looked at in the entirety.
Florida Statute 163
Florida Statute 163 is the Florida Interlocal Cooperation act of 1969. F.S. 163.01(2) states the purpose of the act:
“It is the purpose of this section to permit local governmental units to make the most efficient use of their powers by enabling them to cooperate with other localities on a basis of mutual advantage and thereby to provide services and facilities in a manner and pursuant to forms of governmental organization that will accord best with geographic, economic, population, and other factors influencing the needs and development of local communities.”
As you will note, it really does not tell us much. You will need to dig further into F.S. 163. Eventually you will find Part II.
GROWTH POLICY; COUNTY AND MUNICIPAL
PLANNING; LAND DEVELOPMENT REGULATION
This section of F.S. 163 included chapters 163.251 –163.3253. Throughout this enter section of the Florida Statutes the state tells local governments not only the process local government must follow when providing approvals of how land is used, developed it re-developed it also provides strict guidelines that must be followed to protect both the residents and the landowners.
One on the most important aspects of this section is the provision requiring local government to adopt a Comprehensive Growth Management Plan.
Local Comprehensive Growth Management Plan
What is the Local Comprehensive Growth Management Plan? F.S. 163.3177(1) states the following:
The comprehensive plan shall provide the principles, guidelines, standards, and strategies for the orderly and balanced future economic, social, physical, environmental, and fiscal development of the area that reflects community commitments to implement the plan and its elements. These principles and strategies shall guide future decisions in a consistent manner and shall contain programs and activities to ensure comprehensive plans are implemented. The sections of the comprehensive plan containing the principles and strategies, generally provided as goals, objectives, and policies, shall describe how the local government’s programs, activities, and land development regulations will be initiated, modified, or continued to implement the comprehensive plan in a consistent manner. It is not the intent of this part to require the inclusion of implementing regulations in the comprehensive plan but rather to require identification of those programs, activities, and land development regulations that will be part of the strategy for implementing the comprehensive plan and the principles that describe how the programs, activities, and land development regulations will be carried out. The plan shall establish meaningful and predictable standards for the use and development of land and provide meaningful guidelines for the content of more detailed land development and use regulations.
There is a lot there, to and that’s just the first paragraph of the section! Effectively, the Comprehensive Growth Management Plan is like our United States Constitution. The sections and elements direct how all aspects growth, including, population, economic, social and environmental will be planned for. Ultimately, the plan serves a guide so future decisions are made in a consistent manner.
The Comprehensive Growth Management Plan is not intended to include the land development regulation but rather identify the programs, activities and regulations that will be part of implementing the principals and strategies within the plan.
One of the elements of any Local Comprehensive Growth Management Plan should be the Future Land Use Element.
Future Land Use
Future Land Use designations indicate the intended use and development density for a particular area.
Here are some examples of Future Land Uses”
- Single Family Residential
- Multi-Family Residential
Each land use designation should have a description of policies relating to existing and future land use, density of development, types of uses.
Florida Law requires local governments to have a balance of Future Land Uses to ensure the future growth of a community can be property planed for.
Wikipedia defines Zoning as:
“A method of urban planning in which a municipality or other tier of government divides land into areas called zones, each of which has a set of regulations for new development that differs from other zones. Zones may be defined for a single use (e.g. residential, industrial), they may combine several compatible activities by use, or in the case of form-based zoning, the differing regulations may govern the density, size and shape of allowed buildings whatever their use. The planning rules for each zone determine whether planning permission for a given development may be granted. Zoning may specify a variety of outright and conditional uses of land. It may indicate the size and dimensions of lots that land may be subdivided into, or the form and scale of buildings. These guidelines are set in order to guide urban growth and development.”
Within each Future Land Use Designation there can be several zoning districts. Generally, they have designations such as R1, R2, B1, B2 and so on.
Each Zoning District will designate the types of allowable uses, maximum densities and buildings sizes. The allowable uses, maximum densities and building size for each zoning district must not exceed the maximums for the Future Land Use Designation and the Comprehensive Growth Management Plan.
Another type of Zoning District is the Planned Urban Development also known as a PUD. A PUD is a type of flexible, non-exclusionary zoning device that redefines the land uses allowed within a stated land area. PUDs consist of unitary site plans that promote the creation of open spaces, mixed-use housing and land uses, environmental preservation and sustainability, and development flexibility. Areas rezoned as PUDs include building developments, designed groupings of both varied and compatible land uses—such as housing, recreation, commercial centers, and industrial parks—within one contained development or subdivision. Developed areas vary in size and by zoned uses, such as industrial, commercial, and residential.
In layman terms, a PUD is a negotiation between the landowner and the governing agency. As with all zoning districts, all aspect must comply with the City or County’s Comprehensive Growth Management Plan and maximum buildout as described in the designated Future Land Use for the property that is requesting the PUD.
Other types of similar zoning devices include floating zones, overlay zones, special district zoning, performance-based codes, and transferable development rights.
Land Development Regulations
Land Development Regulations also known as the LDR’s are the regulation of any aspect of development and includes any local government zoning, rezoning, subdivision, building construction, wetland mitigation, stormwater retention, sign regulation or any other regulations controlling the development of, or construction upon, Land.
I believe the easy way for me to explain the LDR’s is to say they control the built environment. Land planners and attorneys may say something else.
Now let’s go back to the question I mentioned at the start of this blog. The answer is not so easy. It may take some research. You will need to determine the what the land use designation is along with the Zoning district. But if you are not sure, don’t guess, contact the Development or Growth Management Department for the jurisdiction where the property is located. For more complex issues you may want to engage the services of a Land Planner and/or a Land Use Attorney.
If you have any questions about land use or real estate in general, please feel free to contact me anytime.
Land Use for Residential Realtors was written by Troy McDonald who is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Realty in Stuart, Florida. He is also an Elected City Commissioner and Mayor of Stuart, Florida.