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  • Jerry Champlin

Zoning will set you free OR STOP YOU DEAD!

When we first started this adventure of building a hybrid affordable housing and boutique hotel project, I knew nothing about zoning other than MU-2 meant you can build mostly whatever you want as long as it's not a noisy industrial solution in a residential/commercial neighborhood. It turns out to be almost true. Our proposed project requires both a lot consolidation and special use permit.

Step 1. Lot consolidation

This is a relatively simple administrative adjustment which can be executed by the planning administrator but does require a minor subdivision plat be developed by your surveyor.

Step 2. Special Use Permit

This component of the process is quite a bit more involved. It includes architectural site plan, civil engineering plan, utility plan and a public hearing. This is where it is imperative for you to make the case on how your project will benefit the community. You will want to socialize your plan with your neighbors and do your best to address their concerns proactively.

At first glance, this seems like an easy enough process and it is. However, it takes quite a bit of time to make your way through the process. I expect this will go faster with experience but plan on at least 6 months. We are currently 6 months into this process; step 1 is nearing completion and step 2 is nearing final review for submission.

Key Learnings

  1. Contract for a survey on the day you close on the property. Regardless of what you are building, you can't do much without the details from a recent survey. Surveyors are incredibly busy so it may take a couple months to get this completed.

  2. Use By Right. If you can find property where your intended use is allowed without a special use permit, you are many months ahead on your project.

  3. Know Thy Neighbor. It's always easier to ask someone you know and have talked to for project support than a complete stranger. It is always worth the time to meet the neighbors to your project site. Make the conversation about understanding what's important to them and then try to incorporate those needs into the project overview you will ultimately walk them through.

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