On behalf of Michael Brooks of Law Offices of Michael A. Brooks posted in land use & zoning restrictions on Friday, July 6, 2018.

Zoning regulations rule everything about building. Whether you’re trying to build an addition onto your home or you want to build a whole new factory for your business, zoning can be either a blessing or a bane.

This is one of those times, however, where the old adage about how “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission,” definitely doesn’t apply. When you run into a zoning problem, deal with the issue before you start to build. It’s far more expensive to do it the other way around.

In other words, ask the zoning board for a variance before you go through with any of your plans. It isn’t unusual for variance requests to be approved, but the right approach can still make the task a lot easier. Here is some advice on how to prepare your variance request:

1. Talk to the neighbors.

Whether your project is residential or commercial, the attitude of the community toward what you’re doing can directly affect the zoning board’s decision. The more support that you have from residents in the area, the easier it will be. If your project is residential, talk to your neighbors about how it will improve the looks or value of your property. If your project is commercial, stress the benefit a thriving business like yours will bring to the area.

2. Attend the meetings.

There’s no harm in attending a few zoning board meetings — and a lot to be gained. You can introduce yourself and let members know that you’re there to gain a better understanding of what they do and how to proceed before you put your application for a variance in. You’ll also gain a good sense of how the board is likely to respond — which can clue you in on whether or not you’re going to need legal assistance with your request.

3. Hire a local expert.

The odds are good that you’re going to hire a contractor for your project — so, make it one from the local area. Zoning is a highly local issue. That means that local builders are most familiar with what will and won’t get approved in any given district.

While dealing with zoning can be a hassle, the end result is worth it — especially once you see your dream project completed!

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