Community developers and authorities create zoning ordinances to protect the safety and peace of residential areas. However, these ordinances are not set in stone, and developers often provide attractive incentives to motivate authorities to make changes. The government might see the benefits in rezoning to allow a commercial, industrial or agricultural entity to set up shop in your backyard, but you and many of your neighbors may have a different opinion.
When the local planning commission or other government entity receives a request to change the zoning restrictions for a property in your neighborhood, you have to act fast. Often, these changes take only a couple months, and by the time you learn that re-zoning is under consideration, the wheels are already in motion. Learning about the proposal and activating your neighbors will be the keys to success.
Knowledge and numbers
Your first step is learning about the local zoning regulations. You can probably find the information on your city or county’s website, but you might have to go to the zoning office and request copies of the ordinances and re-zoning proposal. You may wish to obtain a legal interpretation of the documents to be certain you understand them.
If the information confirms your fears that an undesirable re-zoning is in the works, don’t hesitate to take the following steps to make your opposition clear to the government entity responsible for approving the changes:
- Informing as many neighbors as possible of the requested change and the ramifications your neighborhood could face
- Planning a neighborhood meeting prior to the first public meeting to discuss the proposal and make a plan for action
- Impressing on your neighbors that a large turnout for the public meeting can have a huge impact on the Board’s decision
- Selecting leaders to speak for the group, presenting your objections respectfully and reasonably
- Being diligent about monitoring the proposal since it is common for the requesting body to make changes as the project develops
- Keeping your neighborhood informed about developments and future meetings, and encouraging them to keep pressure on the Board
When developers learn there is public interest in fighting the re-zoning, they might use their own tactics to keep the project moving forward, such as contacting residents to persuade them to stop the opposition. Some councils will even stall the vote, hoping citizens will lose interest. You could be the key factor that keeps the public motivated to protect the peace of your community. Finally, even if the Board votes to continue with the re-zoning, you may still have the option of taking your objections to court.