Zoning laws are essential to maintaining the order and appearance of cities, towns and neighborhoods. Whether denoting residential or industrial areas, these zones ensure that land owners utilize their property in accordance with the law. But what happens when an owner’s land use needs differ from the property’s zoning ordinance? Connecticut residents have a few options at their disposal.

Although trying to change the zoning law regarding a property might be tempting, it is usually easier to seek a variance. Variances are requests for permission to deviate from the property’s existing zoning requirements. Usually, owners must show that current zoning regulations create an impracticality in the property’s use. This is a multi-step process that typically requires a written request, a review by a zoning board and a public hearing on the matter. A zoning examiner will usually notify neighboring land owners as well.

Conditional use permits are similar to variances in that they are a request to use a property for a purpose outside of zoning regulations. However, the final purpose of a property with a conditional use permit is understood to be used in the interest of the public. These permits are typically granted during or after a public hearing.

Some property owners seek an exemption from zoning ordinances not because they want to do something new that is not currently permitted, but because they owned the land before new zoning laws went into place. In this case, individuals can seek something called nonconforming use, which acknowledges that the property was being used in a manner inconsistent with zoning laws before those laws ever existed. However, any lapse in use could void the existing nonconforming use, meaning that they must remain vigilant in monitoring their property’s use.

Although a necessary aspect of modern life, zoning laws can be confusing, particularly in relation to land use. For ambitious land owners in Connecticut, these laws can even feel restricting. Those seeking exemptions to current zoning laws are typically well advised to seek expert guidance from experienced counsel when considering which options will best suit their needs.

Source: FindLaw, “Zoning Changes, Variances, and More“, Accessed on May 27, 2018