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In case you need a refresher, zoning laws exist to divide land into areas with specific purposes or uses. These laws, sometimes called ordinances, establish some organization within a city or town and group similar buildings and establishments together. Zoning laws also determine how land can be used. They keep neighborhoods away from potentially noisy and smelly factories, for example, or situate office buildings near each other.

It is important for potential buyers to investigate the zoning laws of the property they are looking to purchase. Those who violate zoning laws can face criminal or civil penalties.

If you have bought or are considering buying vacant land, read on. This is a simple guide to understanding farm and vacant land rezoning for new builds in Arizona.

How Rezoning in Arizona Works

According to a Phoenix.gov guide, the standard process for vacant land zoning in Phoenix starts with a mandatory pre-application meeting with the Planning Division. This meeting serves as a time in which to address any development issues that might arise during the rezoning process. The applicant then files the paperwork according to the Rezoning & Special Permit Procedures outline. Then, there is a post-application meeting with the Planning Division, typically four weeks after submission. The application is reviewed in the next Village Planning Committee meeting. If initially approved, it passes on to the commission planning phase in which there is a public hearing. It then goes to the city council for final approval.

Zoning Variances

In some cases, if a landowner does not want to go through the entire rezoning process, he or she can apply for a variance, which allows the landowner to bypass one or more of the property’s ordinances. There are two types of variances. An “area variance” refers to the regulations of the real property, such as fence height, paint color or frontage requirement. Alternatively, “use variances” let the owner use the land for activities not previously allowed within the property’s zone.

Generally, these are circumstances where local governments might consider granting a variance:

  • Unique features that make the property different from the land around it
  • Currents zoning creates a practical difficult in making use of the property
  • Maintenance of the neighborhood after a variance has been granted, including avoidance of hardships caused to property owners in the area

The most important thing to remember when seeking a variance is to wait for it to be granted before beginning construction.

What to Do Before Buying Vacant Land in Arizona

It never hurts to do thorough research before purchasing vacant land, especially if buyers are hoping to build a new structure on it. Real estate agents or the property’s seller will be able to disclose the property’s zoning information, including the zoning. Be sure to also look at surrounding properties to ensure that zoning will not cause any future issues.

Once buyers have found a property, they should include a clause in the purchase contract that the sellers must include any documentation necessary for the new owners to apply for rezoning or a variance. An experienced real estate attorney can help in this endeavor and with you understanding how zoning and land use in Arizona works.

Contact A Zoning And Land Use Lawyer In Phoenix Today!

Zoning laws and land use restrictions in Arizona can be difficult to understand and may have restrictions that can easily go overlooked, leading to unnecessary cost and frustration. Having the proper legal counsel on your side from the start can help you prevent any unwanted setbacks and unforeseeable costs in the aftermath. MacQueen & Gottlieb, PLC has extensive experience with zoning laws and land use in Arizona. Our highly experienced team of Arizona real estate attorneys is prepared to help you defend your interests. Contact us today at 602-726-2229 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment online.

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