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Changes to a city’s zoning code may require a legal remedy

On Behalf of | Jan 21, 2020 | Land Use and Zoning | 0 comments

Due to the expense of building and construction, unexpected and sudden regulatory changes may result in costly setbacks for developers in need of getting a project completed in time. When new or revised zoning codes cause developers to run into problems, disputing counterproductive code changes may require legal action.

After a Florida developer obtained a permit to build a proposed gaming facility, the city’s commission changed its gaming code, which could effectively halt the construction plans. As reported by the Miami Herald, the developer filed a legal action alleging the city made zoning changes to specifically target the development company’s gaming project. The complaint seeks to uphold the right to construct the gaming facility under the same codes that the city had in place when the developer received a permit to go ahead in 2017.

The developer claims to have 95% of the building’s new tenants committed to leasing the completed facilities. After having paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to the project’s insurers and attorneys and for related expenses, the developer is suing the city for more than $750,000 in damages and lost business opportunities.

Requesting a land-use variance

When faced with unexpected zoning changes, a property owner may request a variance granting authorization to use the land differently than the manner a zoning code permits. Generally, a variance acts as a waiver to comply with the code’s land-use requirements.

If a zoning board alters a property’s code after construction begins, requesting a waiver may provide permission to continue with the original development plans. The city, however, may possibly add new requirements before granting the waiver. It may specify, for example, that a building’s owner must rent a portion of the available commercial space to a tenant providing necessary community services.

Resolving zoning disputes

Rather than lose a potentially significant source of income for the city, a zoning board may work with developers to keep their construction plans in place. By shunning a commercial building, the city may stand to lose tax revenue, tourists and other community benefits. Developers may discover that disputing zoning changes may be a win-win situation for all parties involved.

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