Influencing Land-use Planning Decisions
Not everyone agrees with land-use decisions made by their county or city government!
If you don't like a proposed or adopted rule, zoning change, or land-use plan amendment, you can work to persuade your government to make a change. There are two ways to do this:
- you can ask your county or city officials to change the regulation or decision you don't like by amending or rewriting an ordinance; or
- you can go through an administrative appeal or judicial process to ask that the revisions or planning process be declared invalid because of conflicts with other laws or regulations.
The first method is not as complicated nor as expensive as the second. By working at the local level, you might not
need legal advice. It is less formal than the second method.
If you choose the first method, consider organizing a group of like-minded citizens. Your local officials or state agency administrator may be more impressed with your request if you can show that dozens (or hundreds!) of citizens agree with you.
Regardless of whether you go it alone or organize a group, your chances of success will be much greater if you follow these guidelines:
- Research the facts surrounding the issue. Make sure you have your facts straight. Your credibility is one of your greatest assets.
- Study the facts supporting the other sides of the issue. You may even modify your own opinion after doing this research.
- Be prepared for questions, but don't be afraid to say, "I don't know, but I'll find out and get back to you."
- Learn about the political process that governs the issue. Identify the people who represent the major agencies involved in the process.
- Contact those representatives, and let your views be known. Be prepared to present your views in a public hearing.
- Find out what recourse you have if you are not initially successful. What appeals processes are available to you? What new courses of action could you take?
The second method -- an administrative appeal or a lawsuit -- almost always requires the services of a lawyer. Success requires in-depth knowledge of law and procedure at several levels of government. Some cases may take years.
To appeal a change already made to a land-use plan, state law requires the challenger to have established "standing" by participating in the first stage of the change:
"(a) "Affected person" includes the affected local government; persons owning property, residing, or owning or operating a business within the boundaries of the local government whose plan is the subject of the review; owners of real property abutting real property that is the subject of a proposed change
to a future land use map; and adjoining local governments that can demonstrate that the plan or plan amendment will produce substantial impacts on the increased need for publicly funded infrastructure or substantial impacts on areas designated for protection or special treatment within their jurisdiction.
Each person, other than an adjoining local government, in order to qualify under this definition, shall also have submitted oral or written comments, recommendations, or objections to the local government during the period of time beginning with the transmittal hearing for the plan or plan amendment
and ending with the adoption of the plan or plan amendment." (subsection 163.3184(1)(a), Florida Statutes)
Influencing decisions on land-use issues is no different than influencing any other kind of political decision. It takes hard work, patience, and perseverance. Be persistent, be polite, and be prepared.
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