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Seek help if you're requesting a zoning change in Wisconsin

You found a perfect piece of property in Wisconsin where you can see yourself building what you always dreamed of: your flower shop at street level, your home above it.

You tell the real estate agent your plan, but she puts a quick end to it.

"You can't build that here. This lot isn't zoned for commercial or mixed-use properties. It's strictly single-family residential."

So just what is zoning?

It certifies how a piece of real estate can be used and developed, and zoning regulations are used in municipalities around the country. The regulations divide a city or town into commercial, residential or industrial zones, and then divide them even further to determine:

  • Types of buildings allowed
  • Where utility lines are put
  • Restrictions on building setbacks
  • Building size and height

Additionally, restrictions can specify everything from the number of dwelling uses to parking requirements. They also can specify if an area can have multi-family dwellings or if it is limited only to single-family residences. Zoning regulations also spell out rules for properties of historic significance.

Since zoning regulations restrict how owners can use their property, they often lead to controversy and disagreements and wind up in the courts.

Zoning laws are made to ensure land use fits into an area's comprehensive plan, but a zoning change can be granted by city or town councils. Typically, a property owner must apply for a zoning variance, then go through a public hearing.

You'll want to work with a land use and zoning attorney should you want to request a change of zoning or have questions about the process. You would be wise to have the paperwork properly filed and representation at any public hearing.

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