How to Best Rezone Your Property

BY Richard Montgomery TIMEJuly 16, 2022 PRINT

Dear Monty: I own a parcel of land that I now want to develop. Friends have told me that it would be a good site for apartments. I believe that if I get the property rezoned before selling it, it will command a higher price. I have no experience in rezoning property. What is the best way to go about it?

Monty’s Answer: Zoning aims to promote and control orderly development. Several factors may help determine the direction you take. The location of the land has a bearing on the best way to proceed. Another factor is the size of the parcel. The larger the property, the more potential uses and zoning options. Another factor may be your resources in terms of time, capital and persistence.

Zoning Policy Varies

States and cities with large populations and layers of bureaucracy may require years to accomplish a rezoning. In some areas, a municipality will not grant rezoning applications unless a project requires rezoning. They take that position as developers sometimes make promises but change the plan and build a different project.

Consider making an appointment with the municipality’s planning department. Planning may be a county’s responsibility in smaller cities or towns. There you can learn the municipality’s protocol for obtaining a change in zoning; many governments have the master plan online. Master plans can be for neighborhoods or entire cities, or both.

Get The Facts

You will want to know all the requirements and the costs of meeting the requirements. What is proposed for your land if there is a master plan? You will also want to know the timetable and steps to be taken. If there is no master plan, what types of zoning is the municipality likely to support, and what would they not support? Is there flexibility in the master plan?

Once you have gathered the information, you can better evaluate how to proceed. A word of caution here: Take notes, write down the names and contact information of the people you speak with, and date the conversations, the discussion and the resolution or advice. There is a history of misunderstandings when attempting to rezone property. Policy or zoning changes, employee turnover, retirement and more can impact your efforts. The catalyst for such events is often the time it takes to rezone. You should email the person you met with after meetings summarizing your understanding of the results. When you cover your tracks, the following steps will likely become easier as you proceed.

Knowledge Is Power — Applied

Now sit down and decide on which direction to take. You may have options not considered here, but your likely options will be:

No. 1: Do it yourself.

No. 2: Hire a professional to do it for you — an attorney, a land development company or someone else.

No. 3: Sell the land “as is.” Depending on the demand for a development property, it may not be true that you will get more by doing the work yourself.

No. 4: Do nothing. You may learn something that will affect the decision to sell now.


Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money: An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty or at DearMonty.com. Email him at monty@dearmonty.com.
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