A lot of people that are not directly involved in development do not understand the real importance of zoning. Zoning agencies and the counties or cities they work for can have a big effect on the value of a piece of property regardless of whether it is raw ground or a structure. They have the ability to make some property owners rich and others not. The value of a piece of farm ground zoned agricultural is not worth as much money as a piece of farm ground that is zoned for a commercial or even residential use. Even areas with the same overall type of use may have different amounts of allowable density. Land with allowable density of 4 homes per acre is generally worth more per acre than density of 2 homes per acre. Commercial property may also have some issues that will affect value. Height restrictions may limit a building in one commercial zone to 35 feet and in another allow for a high rise – again density. Parking requirements – setbacks are other issues that can affect the density and thus the value of a piece of property. Depending on the area there may be additional zoning requirements that might affect value. Helping your client/property owner or buyer understand these issues can be a win – win for everyone.
Sometime you may be able to anticipate the direction that a community might be taking and get in front of zoning issues. A city or county Comprehensive Plan is a document that might be helpful in this process. This is a document drafted by the city or county and given to the zoning agency. They use this document as a guide when making zoning decisions. The respective city councils or county commissioners have the final approval of any zoning ordinance but usually give a lot of consideration to the recommendations made by the zoning agency. Time spent understanding and becoming part of this process will pay off for you and your client over time. Attend the meeting of the city or county councils as well as the zoning agency and provide input where appropriate in order to help them with their decisions. Be proactive and this process and help the community become stronger.