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Understanding zoning variances

Most localities have zoning rules. For example, cities in Florida are typically divided into residential, industrial and commercial zones. These restrictions help keep cities safe and comfortable. Typically, they also help maintain high property values. In some cases, exceptions may be made for certain types of buildings. These require special permits or zoning variances.

Why zoning matters

Zoning keeps certain types of buildings grouped together. It’s important that everyone in the real estate field has some understanding of zoning. In residential zones, speed limits are low and there’s usually very little noise. In industrial areas, there may be increased traffic, pollution and more heavy trucks on the roads. Zoning can help people feel more comfortable in the areas where they live and work.

Variances may be granted when a business wants to open in an area that’s zoned for a different kind of use. For example, someone might want to open a more industrial business in an area that’s been designated for residential or retail use. In that case, they need to approach the city and request a variance. Depending on the locale, someone may need to request a zoning permit, not a variance.

One notable fact is that some buildings are grandfathered into approval. For example, older homes may still be standing in an area that was later zoned for business. They were already standing and so didn’t need a variance. But sometimes, people will need to request a variance or permit if they’re making changes to such a structure.

It’s a good idea to speak with a lawyer before embarking on any real estate project. Consulting with an attorney who has experience in this area may help prevent problems down the line.