Landowners in Georgia are restricted regarding what they can do with their land by zoning laws. If the zoning of a particular piece of land is not consistent with the uses the landowner wants to put it to, he or she might apply for a change of zoning. Rules and regulations vary by jurisdiction, but there is usually an application and fee, and then there could be a hearing during which the landowner sets forth the request and the reasons behind it.
In cases where the owner is unsuccessful in pursuing a zoning change, there may be an appeals process available. Alternatively, some landowners can achieve their desired results via variances rather than zoning changes. A variance is a deviation from zoning requirements. Variances are typically granted when the owner of the property is able to demonstrate that the zoning rules cause him or her a practical difficulty in using the land.
The process of securing a variance usually requires an application and fee. After payment of the fee, the application will typically be reviewed by the relevant zoning board, which will give notice to interested property owners. There may be a zoning examiner’s hearing to determine whether the variance is granted. The final decision may be made by the municipal governing body.
A non-conforming use permit might be granted in cases where the landowner was using the land for a particular purpose before changes in the law made the use violative of zoning regulations. In a case where a landowner wants to use his or her land for purposes not allowed by zoning regulations, a lawyer might be able to help. A lawyer with experience handling land use and zoning cases might be able to help by drafting and filing legal documents to pursue a variance or by arguing for zoning changes on the client’s behalf.