How Does Rezoning Property Work?

Real estate investors may at times find themselves looking at properties that meet their requirements in all but one aspect—zoning. The zoning laws that apply to a given piece of property can restrict what you do with it, and it may be tempting to try to rezone it.

Here, we’ll go over the factors to consider before trying to rezone the property.

The Rezoning Process – Factors to Consider

Cities are divided into different zones, such as residential, commercial, transitional, and industrial. These zoning classifications restrict what may or may not be done with property within the zone, and changing it can be a difficult process. Some factors to consider include:


The first factor to consider is the initial cost of applying for rezoning. In order to get the process started, you’ll usually need to fill out an application and pay a fee. The cost depends on the municipality. In Chicago, for instance, it’s $0.50 per square foot, so for an 8,000-square-foot property, the application fee would be $400—and you’re not even guaranteed to get the results you want.

Reason For Changing The Zoning

Officials will want to know the exact reason why you want to change the zoning assignment for the property. The reason might make or break your attempt to rezone the property, and they take into account not only the current state of the area but future plans as well.

Impact On Surrounding Properties

The impact your plans will have on the surrounding area is taken into account. If your proposed plans would have a negative impact on nearby properties or create a safety hazard, the application is likely to be denied.

Other Forms of Zoning Relief

Rezoning essentially means redrawing the map to include your property in a different zone, and it can be a difficult process. Fortunately, there are some alternatives to rezoning that may be easier to pull off.

Zoning Variance

A zoning variance allows you to waive certain restrictions on the property while keeping its existing zoning. This is useful if you only need one or two items that depart from local zoning restrictions, such as an extra floor on a building.

Conditional Use Permit

A conditional use permit is similar to a variance in that it allows you to depart from what is normally permitted in the zone. However, it differs in one key area—the exceptions for the property are expressly outlined by local ordinances. If you want an exception to the local zoning laws for purposes that aren’t listed in the law, you can’t get a conditional use permit for it.

Allowing Nonconforming Use

In some cases, the zoning laws for an area may have changed, bringing the property into violation where it wasn’t before. In those cases, you may be allowed to use the property for nonconforming use.

How to Begin the Process

Before beginning the process of applying for any form of zoning relief, you’ll want a thorough assessment of what your best options will be. To get started, contact a real estate attorney, and they’ll help you determine the best course to take.

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