Property across the street from my home is zoned for single-family homes, although nothing has ever been built on it. The current owner of the property is seeking to change the zoning laws to include residential AND commercial zoning so that live/work structures can be built on it.
We are having a town meeting in a couple of days – are there specific questions that I should ask about this application to re-zone?
Any help would be most appreciated!
Zoning regulations are completely in the hands of the local government, and they can change at any time, given the local government follows any particular procedures it has in place. It sounds like your town holds public meetings to inform the decision makers. Generally, the local government is concerned with maintaining economic growth and a certain quality of life, as well as managing the “big picture” of what it wants the town or county will look like. There are no hard and fast rules, but you may want to ask what the traffic and service (i.e. utilities, police and fire, etc) implications of this development would be. If there are particular characteristics about your neighborhood, such as open spaces and wild life, or a lack of access to stores, you may want to ask how these will change. You may also want to clarify how many residential units could be built under the new zoning, as well as what commercial uses are permitted and prohibited. These questions will not only help you decide whether you support or oppose the change, but will also help the decision-makers get a better sense of the impact to the community.
If you decide to oppose the change, you will need to lobby the decision makers themselves. Zoning changes, even when they have caused identifiable harm to other property owners, are generally upheld in the courts. That means that you probably can’t sue the other owner or your town if the zoning is changed and harms your property (unless you can establish a nuisance, which would be the subject of another post).