What To Do If The Zoning Board Refuses Your Change Request

Law Blog

If you wish to use your land for a purpose other than what the zoning allows for, your first steps should be to petition the zoning board to either make an exception or change the zoning of your land. But what if the zoning board turns down your request? Your next step should then be to contact a lawyer who specializes in real estate, and work on appealing the zoning board's decision in a court of law. Here's a look at how that procedure generally progresses.

You and your lawyer decide on a reason for the appeal.

You and your lawyer will need to present the court with some rationale as to why the zoning board's initial decision to turn down your request is unreasonable. Generally, this argument will come in one of two flavors. Either you will argue that the zoning board's decision was arbitrary and not based on the facts, or you will argue that the board's current decision deprives you of your legal rights to use of the property.

Which argument is best will depend on your unique situation. The former may be ideal if, for example, your requested use of the property does not affect your neighbors but the board insisted on upholding the original zoning restriction in the spirit of protecting neighbors' rights. The second argument may be ideal if, for example, your zoning requirements don't permit you to put signs in your yard, but you want to put up a sign -- which exercises your freedom of speech.

You'll collect statements from the neighbors.

One of the primary goals of most zoning restrictions is to ensure your neighbors' rights are balanced with your own. If you can show the court that your neighbors are perfectly fine with your activities that are in violation of the current zoning regulations, this will help sway the decision in your favor. Visit each of your neighbors in person, and ask them to write a quick letter stating that they are in favor of your preferred use of your land. Your lawyer may have specific wording that he or she requests all neighbors to use in order to accurately convey the intention of the letter to the court.

You and your lawyer will present the case to the judge.

Typically, you will describe to the judge how you want to use the land and then show proof that the zoning board turned down your initial request. The judge will want to see the statements you collected from neighbors, and your lawyer will present their argument as to why the current zoning decision is either a violation of your rights or arbitrary. Then, the judge will make a decision, which will hopefully be to allow you to use the land for your intended purpose.

Contact a lawyer, like Hornthal Riley Ellis & Maland LLP, for more help.


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