Zoning laws play an important role in protecting and preserving communities and business sectors in Indiana. These laws restrict how property owners can use their property in certain areas by mandating that all property in an area be used for either residential, commercial, or industrial purposes only. People who violate zoning laws can face fines or other penalties. But property owners can sometimes avoid having to comply with zoning laws by requesting a zoning change. Zoning changes, if approved, allow property owners to use their property differently than is allowed by local zoning laws. Common zoning changes include area variances, use variances, development variances, rezoning, or obtaining a special exception from the local government. This blog post will explain each of these changes in greater detail.
Use variances allow the property owner to use their property for a purpose other than what the property is zoned for (residential, commercial, or industrial). You would need to apply for a use variance if, for example, you wanted to use your property to open a business in an area zoned for residential purposes. More frequently, some areas allow for mixed use zoning. This type of zoning allows a property to have a combination of types of zoning uses, such as commercial and residential.
Development variances allow the owner to physically change a structure on their property or the physical property itself into something other than what is typically allowed under local zoning laws. But unlike a use variance, a development variance does not enable the property owner to change the use of their property. Examples of development variances include building a roof at a sharper angle than zoning laws allow, or extending your driveway to accommodate three parking spaces when the zoning regulation only allows you to accommodate two.
Rezoning involves a property owner petitioning to change the zoning category of their property. This allows them to use their property for a different purpose than what it was previously zoned for. The effect of rezoning is similar to that of a use variance, but rezoning completely changes the zoning categorization of what the property may be used for. In contrast, under a variance the property maintains its original zoning designation and the variance allows for an additional use or change in development standards on top of that underlying designation. Also, the rezoning process is usually longer and more difficult than the process of obtaining a use variance.
Finally, local governments may grant special exemptions to allow a property owner to use their property for a unique purpose, subject to certain conditions or criteria imposed by the government. Governments pass special exemptions by ordinance, and typically do so to accommodate use of property for a particular purpose while also regulating the property’s use in specific ways. Special exemptions are commonly given to allow schools, community centers, or religious organizations to be built in residential areas, subject to specific requirements related to things like fencing, parking, and the design of the building.
Zoning changes can allow property owners to avoid complying with local ordinances and use their property for different purposes. An attorney can help you determine whether you can pursue obtaining a zoning change for your property, and which zoning change will be best for your intended use of your property. If you have a zoning issue or want to inquire about obtaining a zoning change, contact the Indiana real estate attorneys at McNeelyLaw to discuss your situation.
This McNeelyLaw LLP publication should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion of any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.