If you are thinking about buying property or building a structure in Lake County, the very first stop you should make before pulling your financial trigger is to the Planning and Zoning Department to see if there are any restrictions on the property, which limit its use and functionality. Unlike many rural counties throughout America, Lake County has a 2030 Comprehensive Plan, which was approved in 2010, and regulates what and where you can build on certain properties. The purpose of the Lake County Planning and Zoning Department is to protect the interest of its citizens by controlling what is built where.There are a lot of property rights advocates who believe that government should not be in the business of planning and zoning private property. However, in Lake County the citizens have decided overwhelmingly that they want control over new construction to prevent a flea market being built in the middle of a residential neighborhood. A good Planning and Zoning Department protects the interests of everyone while providing real guidance to inexperienced or rogue property owners.
Honestly, no one likes to have to ask the government for permission to build a project on land they own. By law, however, communities can enforce planning and zoning regulations. Before buying a property or building a structure, it is imperative that your land is approved for the project you hope to build. If the property is not properly zoned, there is a process for rezoning and obtaining a variance. Doing so takes time, effort, and money—most people require the assistance of a lawyer.
Before you buy or build, bring a plot plan that is to scale to the Planning and Zoning Department showing what you wish to build. You will need an accurate, up-to-date survey and the expertise of drawing the project on a plot plan. At that point, for a fee, the experts in the Planning and Zoning Department will decide if the project you are planning is approved for the area. Although minor variance and changes in land regulations are common, zoning changes that require significant changes in land use can be tricky with no guarantee they will be approved.
The 2030 Comprehensive Land Plan specifies what type of projects can be constructed in certain areas of Lake County. Be sure to know what you want to build and ensure the property can be used in that manner. Additionally, the property must meet concurrency standards for transportation, education, sanitation and storm water, and parks and recreation. Concurrency means that Lake County has the available services to meet your project’s needs. If this concurrency does not exist, you may have to mitigate the shortfall or may not be able to build your project.
There are countless Land Development Regulations tied to properties throughout Lake County, which restrict certain usages. Failing to understand these regulations can inhibit your use of the property. A lack of understanding Land Development Regulations will not give you a pass from the Lake County Planning and Zoning Department.
This column is not written to alarm potential property or project owners, because for most land transactions the zoning is clear and fits the respective project. Keep in mind, the more complicated the project or land use, the more difficult the planning and zoning process can become. At that point, find good legal advice from an attorney experienced in land use and zoning. The paperwork and information required for zoning issues can be daunting and most property owners do not have the expertise to navigate the process without an attorney.
Before buying or building on a piece of property, know the zoning and land use regulations. If there are any questions, contact a qualified attorney.
Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply, and he is also the host of the “Around the House” Television Show, which is hosted weekly on Lake Sumter Television. For more information, go to www.Aroundthehouse.TV.