If you receive a notice that a neighbor or some property owner nearby to you proposes to build something that would require a zoning change or variance and you object to the purpose, you have the right to voice your opinion and try to prevent this change. The notice should have given you the details for how to present your objection. The local zoning board does not necessarily approve every zoning change or variance request that comes its way, and as a neighbor with a serious objection, your opinions will be taken seriously. The zoning officials will consider the needs of the applicant but they will look carefully at the needs of the neighborhood and the community.
When you receive the initial notice of proposed change, it is important to read the entire application. The first notice of change may not contain the entire application. You may find upon reading the entire application, that your concerns are not real or that with only a slight modification the problem can be resolved. Usually the zoning board holds a working discussion session which is open to all interested parties, and you can attend this meeting and get a feeling for how the board members feel about the proposed change.
If you intend to object to a proposed variance, you will need to be organized and present your objections to the zoning board with facts, statements from experts, and perhaps even witnesses. If the proposed variance will lower property values, get the opinion of a local real estate agent and see if the agent would be willing to come forward and testify for you as an expert witness. The real estate agent would be looked upon as an objective professional and could be a very persuasive witness.
Photographs are always a good remedy to prove your point. Zoning board members are often sympathetic to objections which involve preserving the open space of a community, or buildings which would block light from other properties. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions and objections to a variance or zoning change request. On the other hand, if the change request has come from your immediate neighbor, you might want to try talking to your neighbor first, before going before the zoning board. Often times talking over the proposed change with your neighbor before taking action may lead to a solution and preserve your good neighbor relations.
Copyright © 2000 Sandy Gadow. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without the written permission from Escrow Publishing Company.