Process to rezone property to industrial

by robert
(leoni township jackson county michigan)

Visitor Question: The property I am asking about is on a busy road that connects to the second busiest road in the county. It backs up to the interstate. Nearby properties already have a concrete company and power lines going through them.

The neighboring properties immediately touching this one are zoned industrial, although this is a house on a 2 acre lot. What is the process to also be zoned industrial like the neighbors?

Editors Reply: Robert, each county or city has its own zoning ordinance (law), so there can be variations. But there is a lot of similarity between zoning ordinances, especially regarding the process of rezoning. So below we will tell you the typical process. Then you need to ask the city, township, or county (whichever has a zoning ordinance that applies to this property) to confirm the process.

In general, the property owner (we assume for this answer that it is you) would file an application for rezoning. Answer each question truthfully. Sometimes you will be asked about your plans for the property or intended use, but not necessarily. There is almost always a fee required to file a rezoning application, which could be minimal or as high as four figures. Many towns try to recover all of their out-of-pocket costs for processing the application, and some go further to recapture some of their staff costs.

If you have trouble competing the application, ask the staff member for help in understanding it. Sometimes if you are really polite a staff member will even offer you some advice about whether you are likely to receive the rezoning or not. If you remain respectful, expect good advice about exactly how the process will work and the timing of each meeting.

Usually there is a planning commission or planning and zoning commission that first advertises for a public hearing in a newspaper or some such. They also will usually send letters to property owners within a certain number of feet of your property.
Typically these commissions meet only once a month, unless you are in a very large city, so don't expect the hearing date to be too soon.

Before the advertised public hearing, there is almost always a written recommendation from a city staff member or from an outside consultant that the city pays to prepare these recommendations. You have a right to see a copy of that and should look over what they have to say before you attend the hearing. Also look at the maps or any other exhibits they have sent to the planning commission just in case you spot an error.

You should definitely appear at the public hearing and speak on your own behalf, unless you want to have an attorney do the speaking for you.

After hearing from you and any others who want to talk about the proposed rezoning, often the commission will decide in that same meeting if they will be recommending for or against the rezoning. But this isn't the end of the matter.

It is also possible that they table the consideration until their next meeting, so there is no guarantee you will be finished with the planning and zoning commission in one meeting.

Next their recommendation goes on to the city council (or county or township board of course). They too must then advertise for a new public hearing. Again you must go to the meeting and either speak on your own behalf or pay a professional to do the speaking while you are sitting there observing.

Then again the city council may take a vote at that same meeting, or they may table it to the next meeting or another future meeting. This is especially likely to happen if new information comes to the surface during the public hearing or if there is a lot of opposition to the rezoning and the city council wants more time to think about or investigate some of the objections.

If and when the city council votes in your favor, the property is rezoned, and theoretically you could apply for a building permit for something allowed in the industrial zone the next day, or list the property for sale with the claim of industrial zoning the next day.

At any time during the process, feel free to ask the staff member you first talked with to help you understand the next steps. It sounds as if you have a good case if the adjoining properties are all zoned industrial.

(If by any chance you live in this house, though, be sure to find out before you spend money on the zoning application whether you can continue to live there as long as you like. Although not too likely, it is possible that once the property is zoned industrial, your house becomes what they call a nonconforming use and could not be rebuilt if it were to be destroyed by fire or flood. Think that through before you write that check.)

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