Zoning Approval Process

The approval process may vary slightly between municipalities, but there is a standard sequence that a development will go through to receive a zoning or land use permit.

Although there are rules that dictate how and at which stage of development a developer should request certain kinds of land use permits, it is not an exact science.  Sometimes a developer may end up applying for several types of land use permits in a "see what sticks" kind of approach. For example, if a developer submits an application for a "curative amendment" to build a factory in a residential zone and they are denied because they did not meet the criteria for a curative amendment, they may simply make develop a case for the project and resubmit as an application for "rezoning" in the same area, and be successful.

Sometimes a developer will also need to apply for several types of land use permits all at once.  Imagine that an energy company wanted to develop a power plant in an area that is zoned "residential".  The company requests a variance from the Zoning Hearing Board and it is granted. This means they are allowed to build their power plant in a residential zone even though its "use" is inconsistent with what you would expect in a residential zone, namely the "use" of providing residences.

However, in order to function this power plant requires cooling towers that are at least 60-feet high. The zoning ordinance says that all buildings in residential zones can be no taller than 40-feet. The power plant would still need to receive a height variance before they could proceed with the project. So now, the company might have to start over and begin the process of applying for another type of land use permit. For this reason, complex fracking infrastructure projects such as compressor stations or gas-fired power plants may submit several types of land use permits at once. This means it can be more complicated for you to track but it could also mean there are multiple avenues to provide resistance to the infrastructure.

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