Suppose you buy a Florida property and you want to use it for something else. Or suppose you own a waterfront property on Fort Lauderdale beach and you want to change its current use.  Do you have to apply for rezoning? As with many real estate and land use questions, the answer to this one depends on your unique circumstances.  Having said that, if the new use is not permitted in the zoning district where the property is situated, the answer is generally, “yes.”

Although the process may vary slightly throughout each county and city in South Florida, there are also some similarities. To simplify the issue for the purposes of this article, we’ll provide an overview of the process in Broward County and Fort Lauderdale.

As a property owner, your right to request the rezoning of your property in Broward County is specified in County Code Section 39-26(a), and the way in which you must do so is set forth in County Code Section 39-26(b). Specifically, the latter mandates that you seek permission for rezoning by completing forms provided by the Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department, and paying applicable fees.

Once you have submitted all of the paperwork, a public hearing before a Local Planning Agency (LPA) will be scheduled. By law, the hearing must be held within 120 days after receipt of the petition, or on the soonest viable date. Based on the information provided in the application and at the hearing, the LPA will make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners, which will also hold public hearing(s) as required by law.

Those hearings must be held within 45 days following the public hearings conducted by the LPA, or on the soonest available date. To ensure that everyone who may be impacted by the rezoning has a chance to attend and/or speak at the hearing(s), all public notices must be issued in accordance with state law. Furthermore, Broward County Code Section 39-27(b)(2) pertaining to “all owner-initiated petitions for rezoning,” mandates that public notices are “sent to all property owners and the mayor and city manager of any municipality” within specified distances of the property lines in certain circumstances.

In addition to information you provide in your petition, the LPA’s recommendation and concerns voiced at the public hearing(s), the Board of County Commissioners will consider numerous factors including but not limited to:

  • Whether your petition has merit based on “changed or changing conditions”
  • Whether your request is in keeping with “consistent with the goals, objectives, policies, and intent of the Broward County Comprehensive Plan”
  • Whether the rezoning you are seeking will “protect, conserve, or preserve environmentally critical areas and natural resources”
  • Whether the rezoning you are seeking will create “an undue burden on existing infrastructure and whether capacity exists for any projected increase that may be generated”

If your request meets the criteria for rezoning, your petition will be approved. If not, the board will deny it and you will be unable to resubmit it for at least six to 12 months.

In Fort Lauderdale, the rules for the rezoning process are set forth in City Code Section 47-24.4. Specifically, City Code Section 47-24.4(C) mandates that you submit an application for rezoning to the Department of Sustainable Development

Urban Design & Planning Division, along with information required by law and the applicable fee. Here’s what happens next:

  • The department will review the application to see if it meets certain criteria.
  • Based on its findings, the department will make a recommendation to the city’s planning and zoning board.
  • The planning and zoning board will also conduct a public hearing and its own review of the application.
  • Based on its findings, the planning and zoning board will either recommend approval, recommend a stricter zoning classification than the one you are seeking, or deny the application (if you do not agree to the stricter zoning classification).
  • If your application is denied, you can appeal to the city commission.
  • If your application is recommended for approval, it will be sent to the city commission, which will hold a public hearing and review the material to see if it meets certain criteria for rezoning.
  • If your request meets the criteria, the city commission will approve it and adopt an ordinance reflecting the change; if not, the commission may also suggest stricter zoning classification than the one you are seeking, or deny your application if you do not agree with the stricter zoning classification.

As we mentioned, the rezoning process differs slightly depending on where the property is located. For more information about this issue or to learn more about how Eskander Loshak LLP can help with your legal business needs, contact us today.

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