As a business owner, you have undoubtedly dealt with your share of bureaucratic red tape. In fact, it may seem as if the state of Florida and its local governments exist to make life difficult. A prime example of this is zoning laws. Most people do not realize that zoning is what keeps governments from building prisons next to elementary schools.
Zoning allows developers to provide clean and comfortable neighborhoods without concern that some industries will move in and disrupt the peaceful way of life. They also protect the environment by regulating how you and other business owners can use the land. However, zoning laws do not always benefit you and your business, and you may find yourself challenging these laws to keep your business profitable.
Reasons to challenge
The duty of the zoning authorities is to protect the community to ensure the use of the property does not interfere with the health, safety and general welfare of its citizens. Zoning regulations occur through a specific procedure which should include communication with the public. If you recently received notice of changes in the zone where your business exists, you may want to take steps to challenge those changes. Such challenges may involve any of the following factors:
- You did not receive prior notice that there would be a zoning change.
- The changes in zoning seem arbitrary or unreasonable.
- The zoning changes create a hardship so as to prevent you from using the property the way you need to for the good of your business.
A successful challenge to the zoning changes will result in the invalidation of the change. However, in lieu of a legal challenge, you may try alternative courses of action, especially if you think it is unlikely that your challenge to invalidate the zoning will succeed.
Seeking relief from zoning changes
Naturally, you want to protect your ability to do business, and if a zoning change interferes with that ability, you may petition for an amendment to the decision. This means you will have to prove that the zoning significantly changes the character of the affected area causing a substantial negative impact to your business. You must demonstrate the reverse as well, that an alternate zoning will have a positive effect.
You may also apply for exceptions to the zoning ordinance particularly for your business. This can be in the form of a variance, which is based on hardship, or a special permit for you to continue your business despite the zoning.
Because of the complex nature of zoning laws and the entities you must deal with to make your case, having an attorney with experience in real estate and business litigation will be especially useful.