Planning and zoning negotiations start with a developer who has a plan or concept for the development of land that the developer owns or has rights to develop. This may be as simple as obtaining a sign permit, expanding the size of a building, adding a new use, or better access to the property. It can also be complicated, like a planned development of a 100 plus acre tract of land with multiple uses and the leveraging of economic development tools to help the developers reduce cost and improve profits. There are hundreds of economic development tools available at the state and local level. On an annual basis the State of Missouri provides 800 million dollars in state tax credits for a multitude of programs.
The development plan needs to take into consideration the existing zoning regulations in the area where the development will occur although this is just the starting point. The regulations are the framework, but many times the regulations are outdated and are no longer consistent with community goals. CECB is always looking for ways to shape or change the framework to meet the needs of the developer based on a win for the developer and the local governmental agency. In other words, find common ground with the city or county and develop a win/win situation.
The initial review of the local zoning laws and other applicable regulations like subdivision laws allow the developer to determine in general how the development fits into the overall plan for the city or county. Typically, one of the first steps is to meet with county or city officials who have jurisdiction over development of land. Some cities, like Springfield, Missouri strongly encourage an initial meeting in order to discuss the developer’s plans, learn how the City’s plans and policies may affect the property and its development, and to determine what zoning district may be best suited for the proposed development and the surrounding neighborhood. In this way, you will know from the start, what (if any) issues the request for rezoning could face and how your request will impact other city requirements like storm water runoff or subdividing of land. It is also important to recognize that new or unanticipated issues my be injected by neighbors, members of the planning and zoning commission, the city council, or others; therefor, the developer needs to be prepared to make adjustments without sacrificing the overall objective for the development.
After the initial meeting, the developer files an application for rezoning, which is reviewed by city staff to determine the impact on the City’s street system, sanitary sewer system, and other public facilities and the surrounding properties, specifically existing residential neighborhoods, as well other considerations. A city staff report is prepared and required public notices are given in order to let the public know about the meeting before the planning and zoning commission and the city council. In order to get neighborhood input the developer may be required to hold a meeting with the neighborhood. As a rule it is better to hear about neighborhood concerns early in the process instead at the end when you are before the city council or county commission.
Even after securing the necessary permits from the city or county it is important for the developer to continue to build on the relationship with government officials in order to cement a good working bond with city staff. After all public officials at whatever level can either help or impede the development. Employing an experienced attorney knowledgeable about how local government works is one of the many important steps in the process.
Contact CECB for more information.