Conditional Use Permits

Conditional use permits are special exceptions to existing zoning laws and, as the name suggests, such permits are dependent on the occurrence of certain “conditions” being met. These permits allow the municipality a modicum of discretion in balancing the suitability of a parcel of land for a designated purpose with the public’s health, welfare, and safety.

A land developer may obtain a conditional use permit for a desired construction project on the condition that it take or refrain from taking certain actions outlined by the local governing body. To some extent, conditional use permits are negotiated agreements between the developer and the local government. To ensure allegiance to the “conditions,” the local government may require the developer to file restrictive covenants on the land as a prerequisite. Additionally, the local government and developer may enter into a formal written contract whereby the developer agrees to comply with the conditions if the permit is granted for the development.

Permit “conditions” are a way for the local government to accommodate growth and progress while at the same time avoiding an adverse impact on neighboring properties. For example, a builder may be allowed to construct a professional office building on a lot marked “residential” as long as the builder agrees to construct the building no more than two stories high and leaves at least thirty feet between the building and the residential property lines. Another example would be a developer who wanted to construct a children’s recreational area on land zoned residential. Here, the local government might not only require a buffer zone of open space between the play area and the nearest residence but also that certain safety features be incorporated into the play area such as a surrounding fence and quality ground cover to prevent a falling child from serious injury. Local governments may also condition land development on the builder’s agreement to design and construct new roads that will alleviate traffic congestion caused by the new development.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.