If you would like to develop land, chances are you will need to appear before a planning commission at some point. Appearing before the commission can be an intimidating experience. Even those who’ve appeared before the commission many times make mistakes. While no two planning commissions are the same, there are a few general rules to follow when going before the commission.
First, preparation is everything. If you’ve properly filled out your application, most of the work will be done before you eenter the commission chambers. Many first-time applicants make the mistake of providing a bare-bones application with little supporting material. When applying for a special land use or rezoning, you are asking the commission to make an exception for you. Provide the commission enough information for them to justify departing from the standard zoning. Your presentation should never be for supplying key information. Instead, it should be for clarifying minor details.
Second, ensure that the person giving your presentation is familiar with the relevant zoning ordinances and master plan. When evaluating your request, the commissioners will be guided by the zoning ordinances and the master plan. Therefore, to make an effective argument, your presenter must be able to show why your request meets the requirements in those documents. Many applicants come before the commission with little to no knowledge of the zoning ordinance or master plan. This makes a bad impression on the commissioners and does not make it easy for them to approve the application.
Third, consider hiring a professional to fill out your application and make your presentation. This goes hand in hand with the first two rules. If you can hire a competent professional to represent your interests, you do not need to become an expert on local zoning and planning law. Further, you will likely avoid the time and expense of having an application denied or fixing errors that could have been prevented in the first place. A land use attorney is the best kind of professional to hire when making an application to the planning commission. An attorney will be able to advise you from the beginning of your project to give you the best chance of success.
Finally, an applicant should make every effort to find out if there will be neighbor or public opposition to the application. While planning commissioners are not elected, they can still be susceptible to pressure to recommend denial of certain applications. Indeed, many commissioners value public input into their decisions. Support from neighbors or other residents can be very helpful to an applicant. To that end, it is often wise to let neighbors know your plans for a parcel before they receive notice from the municipality.
While these tips are a good starting point in preparing to appear before the planning commission, they are not exhaustive. The best course is always to discuss your application with a land use attorney before submitting.
The attorneys at Dalton & Tomich, PLC specialize in land use and zoning matters. We will assist you in preparing your application and appear before the planning commission and the board or city council. If you are considering submitting a land use application to your municipality, please contact us. We would be pleased to partner with you in your venture.
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