Residential to Commercial Rezoning

by Sharon
(Buda TX)

Visitor Question: I live on a major road on the outside of a subdivision. There are businesses across the street from me. My question is how do I have my property rezoned commercial in order to sell it. A business is the only one I can sell to. The street is a major road with lots of traffic.

Editors Reply: There is no doubt that commercially zoned property generally sells for a higher price than residential zoning. We can see why you would want to do this.

Just for a moment, let us imagine that you were not able to obtain a rezoning. Have you actually checked with a knowledgeable and competent real estate agent about how likely it is that a property such as yours would sell as a residential property? Knowledge is power in this case; if the real estate professional upholds your view that no one will buy your home unless it is rezoned, that can be an argument you make in favor of the rezoning.

We will just observe that often it is best for the community if residential properties on major roads remain residential if at all possible. This is true because residential land uses generate less traffic than commercial land uses, thus assuring that the major street moves traffic along efficiently and effectively. But when most of the other homes similarly situated have been rezoned, this potential argument against the rezoning tends to disappear.

Well, enough of our "raining on your parade." Let's answer the question you asked.

Your first step should be to inform yourself about the rezoning process. Usually in the U.S. it is a two-part process: a public hearing conducted by the planning commission, followed by a non-binding recommendation from the planning commission. Next comes a public hearing by the city council, town board, county commission, or whatever your relevant public body may be called. Then that body votes at the same meeting, or a subsequent meeting, and only that vote counts.

Both public hearings typically require a formal written notice to be given to your neighbors within a certain footage of any part of your property. Often a notice is posted on your property itself, announcing the hearing. At the hearing, any interested person is able to speak, sometimes with a time limit and sometimes with no particular time limit.

Public hearings and deliberation on the part of the planning commission or city council may be continued from one meeting to the next, so there is no guarantee that the process will move at a particular pace.

You would have to complete an application requesting the rezoning, usually filing a paper application at your city hall. Almost always an application fee is required, since the city has expenses connected with newspaper advertising of the public hearings and other items.

Although almost never required, you should definitely speak with your elected official even before you file the application. By elected official, we mean your own city councilperson, if there are districts (often called wards) in your city or town. Sometimes city councils are elected "at large" meaning a certain number of people are elected regardless of where they list throughout the city. In that case, you might want to talk to the most vocal city councilperson or the mayor.

The purpose of speaking with the elected official is to learn their opinion before you spend money, time, and effort on an application. If supportive of the rezoning, they can give you great advice also.

It also is worthwhile to talk with any professional staff planner that the city may have. You would want to know in advance whether that person is likely to support or oppose the rezoning.

If you live in a place that easily grants rezonings just because the property owner requests them, you likely will have an easy time. If you are located in an aggressively pro-planning place, though, you will be glad for any extra bit of preparation you have done.

Good luck with this.



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