Do I need to go through zoning? A common question.
One of the first things I train each new site development agent is that when asking a Zoning Inspector or City Development official, "Do I need to go through zoning?" the answer is always yes. They never even open the code book.
It might seem silly to even ask, but every zoning or development office has its own character, and certain things that they tend to oppose. Building cellular towers, I tend to see this more than most. Self-Storage also isn't on the top of the list of desirable development in some jurisdictions, and this is probably exactly where they need your service the most. It's also where you're most likely to have no competition.
It is interesting to note that I often do not need to go through a zoning process, even though the zoning official tells me otherwise. I read the zoning code regarding anything that might affect my project before I contact the jurisdiction, and I try to imagine how a jursidiction might try to stop me. Most jurisdictions are staffed by decent people, but occasionally they play loose with the rules.
When I do finally speak with someone and learn their spin on what I need to do, I ask them to show me what section of the code their interpretation is coming from. Again, you might be surprised how few can actually do it. In many cases it's not required by law, but it's - say it with me, "always been done that way."
In the City of Springfield, Ohio, for example, I was told that adding antennas to an existing cellular tower required an expensive and time-consuming Conditional Use Permit process. The code said nothing that would support this. Each time I got the wrong answer, I asked which section of the code the interpretation came from, and each time I got a new answer the process was a little easier and less expensive than the answer before. In the end, I simply applied for a building permit, which zoning could not restrict. I called "bull", and they gave in.
It's almost always an excellent idea to build a relationship with the development and zoning staff within the jurisdiction where your business is located. It is not required, however, to blindly follow whatever they tell you without asking for verification.
Happy Developing, the towerguy
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