People often call us who own a property or are looking to buy a property and want to develop it. They don’t know what they can build. They ask: What is the first step? How do we know what we can build? Our response is: Well, you need a zoning analysis.
Zoning is a set of laws or codes that set the rules for what one can build on a property. Zoning codes limit the location, size, shape, and use of buildings.
What is a Zoning Analysis?
A zoning analysis is a comprehensive report that through text and diagrams assess and illustrates the development rights of a property according to local zoning regulations. The analysis determines what one can build on a given property.
The first step in a development is the zoning analysis. This will be the starting point of any new construction project, building enlargement, or conversion. The goal of the zoning analysis will be to figure out the”development rights”. Development rights are your rights to develop a property in accordance with bulk and use regulations.
When Do You Need a Zoning Analysis?
Most development projects will begin with a zoning analysis. Here are some examples of project types where you may want to get a zoning report.
- New Building Development
- Any new building residential, commercial, large, or small.
- Building a New House
- New Homes, subdivisions, single or two family.
- Building Addition
- Horizontal additions or Vertical building additions / enlargements of any kind for buildings and houses.
- Change of Building use
- Even though you may not be changing the size of an existing building when you change the use you may need to do a zoning analysis. Zoning not only governs the size of a building but also the use of a building.
What we need when doing a Zoning Analysis
An architect needs three things to conduct a zoning analysis. The first is to know what you are looking to do. Zoning can often have multiple options so if we know your goals at the start that can help us focus the analysis. If you do not know what you want to do then the analysis can be more broad and cover the general regulations and options. The second is to know of any easements, covenants, deed restrictions or development / air rights transfers on the property. The third thing we need is a property survey. The property survey is done by a licensed land surveyor not by an architect. Always make sure to hire licensed professionals.
The property survey should be a complete “architectural survey”.
What goes into a zoning report and analysis?
Our Zoning reports have 4 parts. Architects will do their reports differently so be clear this is our structure for a report. Here are the 4 parts:
- General Property Information
- Zoning Code Analysis
- Conclusion / Interpretation
- Diagrams / Illustrations
General Property Information: We interpret the property survey and collect data on the property. This is where we list the stats on the property. Lot area, lot type, Zoning districts, existing conditions, etc…
Zoning Code and Analysis: This is the core of the report. Here we list the relevant zoning code sections that will impact the development. This will include calculations and practical application of the zoning code. This is the technical details of the report.
Conclusion / Interpretation: Zoning is complicated. We make sure that we include written text in laymen’s terms that anyone should be able to understand.
Diagrams / Illustrations: We include 2D and 3D diagrams to illustrate the development potential.
What kind of Information do we get in a zoning analysis?
The goal of the analysis is to know what you can build. There are many questions that need to be answered. Here are some examples of questions to answer in a zoning report:
The allowed use of the property: If commercial, what types of commercial use can there be? If residential, how many units are allowed. Are mixed use buildings allowed and if so at what proportion.
The building Bulk: How many square feet is allowed? How tall can the building be? How many floors? Does the building need setbacks?
Site Planning: Does the building have required yards? How much of the property can be developed? What distance must be maintained between buildings?
Parking: Is parking allowed? Is parking Required? If so, How many spaces? Can we have a driveway?
Who does a Zoning Report?
Zoning reports are usually done by an Architect. There are also lawyers who specialize in zoning. A zoning lawyer can help you with your zoning analysis especially if there is a complicated aspect to interpret. Typically you will go to an architect for your zoning report. Always make sure you hire licensed professionals.