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Frequently Asked Questions
Department of Planning and Neighborhood Development
Address: Planning Office
Department of Planning and Neighborhood
316 N. Capitol Ave., Suite D-1
Lansing, MI 48933
|Department of Planning and Neighborhood Development|
|316 N. Capitol Ave., Suite D-1|
|Lansing, MI 48933|
Planning & Neighborhood Development Department
Main Office: 483-4060
Main Office: 483-4066
Call 483-4069 (M-F 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM) for questions related to:
Rezoning of Property
Zoning Text Amendments
Special Land Use Permits
Planned Residential Developments
Zoning Code Interpretation
Call 483-4361 (City of Lansing Code Compliance Office) for questions regarding Zoning Code enforcement.
Board of Zoning Appeals
Meeting Times: meets on the second Thursday of every month, unless otherwise notified, at 7:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers, 10th Floor, City Hall.
Questions regarding the Board of Zoning Appeals should be directed to the Zoning Information Desk by calling 483-4069 (M-F 8 AM - 12 PM).
What is a Comprehensive Plan?
A Comprehensive Plan provides general direction on the City's future development patter. The Plan also provides policies and actions for community leaders to consider in the future. Some of the Comprehensive Plan recommendations will be implemented through amendments to the Zoning Ordinance text and map. However, the Comprehensive plan itself does not change the Zoning Ordinances or the zoning of any property.
What is Zoning?
Zoning primarily controls how property may be used and where structures may be placed on the property. Different regulations may be established to carry out specific purposes stated for each zoning district, although within each zone land uses are treated similarly. This includes land uses, density, building height and size, lot sizes, yards and open spaces, setbacks, signs and accessory uses. In addition, various standards are established for off-street parking and provisions related to different development techniques. Within each zoning district, a category of uses is defined which require a special land use permit in order to locate in that district. The laws are designed to allow owners reasonable use of their land while protecting the rights of the neighborhood and the community.
The Zoning Code and Maps should be reviewed prior to constructing, altering or locating land use within the City. The Zoning maps are official City documents that reflect the location of the various residential, commercial and industrial zoning districts with the City. Both the Zoning Code text and Maps can be inspected in the Planning Office. A copy of the Zoning code or Zoning Map may be purchased at the Planning Office or viewed on this web site. On the web site, click on ordinances and follow the index to the "Planning and Zoning Code."
How can a property owner seek to amend the requirements of the Zoning Code?
1. Obtain an application from the Planning Office. Assistance is available to fill out the applications.
2. File the application with the Planning Office, which will then verify the information and forward the application to the City Clerk.
3. The application of petition will be referred to the Planning Board, which meets the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. in Council Chambers, 10th Floor of City Hall, 124 E. Michigan Ave. (unless otherwise notified).
4. Upon receipt of the petition, Planning Office staff will prepare a public hearing notice for the newspaper (printed 15 days in advance of the public hearing), prepare letters or postcards to all taxpayers and occupants within 300 feet of the subject property (mailed 15 days before the public hearing), and gather initial data concerning the subject property and surrounding area (i.e., present land use and zoning).
5. At the public hearing, staff will make a short presentation. The petitioner will be called to speak. Other persons in favor or opposed are then allowed to speak regarding the proposed rezoning.
Public comment may also be expressed in a letter or telephone call to the Planning Office. Public input is considered and evaluated at each hearing prior to recommendation by the Planning Board.
6. After the public hearing, the petition is referred to the Zoning and Ordinance Subcommittee of the Planning Board. This Committee meets generally on the 2nd Wednesday following the hearing of each month at 4:00 p.m. in the Dpeartment of Planning and Neighborhood Development Conference Room, 316 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing. This meeting is also open to the public. The Subcommittee's responsibility is to make a recommendation back to the full Planning Board.
7. The petition is placed on the Planning Board agenda for action once the Zoning and Ordinance Subcommittee has made a recommendation. The Planning Board may recommend approval, modification or denial of the petition.
8. Upon Planning Board action, a letter is sent to the Mayor and Council (with a copy to petitioner) transmitting the Planning Board's recommendation.
9. Council receives the recommendation and sets a public hearing (approximately 3 weeks hence) before Council. A public notice is prepared and placed in the newspaper 15 days prior to the public hearing.
10. After that public hearing, the petition is referred to the Development and Planning Subcommittee of City Council. The Subcommittee's responsibility is to review the Planning Board action and make a recommendation to the entire City Council.
11. City Council then makes the final decision, which may be to approve, modify or deny the petition.
12. The applicant is notified of Council's action, and the Planning Office is directed to make the appropriate change to the official Zoning Map.
How to oppose a proposed change to the Zoning Code
The property owners of at least 20 percent of the area of land within an area extending outward 100 feet from any point on the boundary of the land included in the proposed change (excluding publicly owned land) may submit a properly signed protest petition to the City Clerk.
If the legal protest is determined to be valid, then the amendment to the Zoning Ordinance may be passed only by a 2/3 vote of the City Council.
In the absence of a legal protest challenge, only a simple majority of the total membership of City Council is necessary for an amendment.
How to obtain a Special Land Use Permit:
Special Land Use Permits follow the same procedures as rezoning requests and take approximately 60 to 90 days to process. The final action taken may be to approve, approve with conditions or deny the application.
Can a requirement of the Zoning Code be waived (variance): Yes
The Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA)1 will hear and decide requests for variances to the dimensional requirements of the Zoning Code2. The BZA is only authorized to grant dimensional variances. To obtain such a variance it is necessary to establish that there is a hardship or practical difficulty in meeting Code requirements and still be able to use the land in a reasonable way3. Once a practical difficulty or hardship has been established, the BZA evaluates each appeal request according to the enumerated standards to determine its relationship to the subject property and compatibility with the surrounding area4. The process takes 30 to 45 days.
Procedure for obtaining a variance:
1. Obtain an application form in the Planning Office of the Department of Planning and Neighborhood Development. Assistance is available when filling out the form. A site plan drawn to scale is required.
2. Completed applications are filed in the Planning Office. A receipt with the date, place and time of the BZA meeting when the appeal will be heard. A nonrefundable filing fee is required. The fee schedule is established by City Council and is on the application.
3. The Planning Office staff prepares a letter or postcard that is mailed to surrounding owners and occupants within 300 feet of the subject property notifying them of the place, date and time of the scheduled public hearing, as well as a description of what the applicant proposes. This letter is sent 10-15 days in advance of the public hearing.
4. Each appeal is then discussed at a staff meeting where an opinion is formulated based on the criteria and standards outlined in the Code, and the reasonableness of the proposed change.
5. The Planning Office staff prepares a report upon information gathered regarding the subject property and the surrounding area including items such as site size, existing land use, zoning and development. This preliminary report is sent to the Board members approximately one week prior to the public hearing.
The staff report contains a staff analysis and recommendation.
6. At the public hearing staff will make a short presentation of the request and the staff's report. The petitioner, or a representative, will be called to speak, then other persons whether in favor or opposed to the proposal. Public comment may also be expressed by letter or telephone call, (517) 483-4066, to the Planning Office. Public input is considered and evaluated at each hearing prior to a final decision by the BZA.
7. At the close of public hearing on each case the BZA discusses the merits of that appeal.
Following their discussion, a decision is made. The BZA may act to approve, approve with conditions, modify or deny an appeal. If additional information is needed, the Board may act to table the appeal.
8. Once a decision has been made, a letter will be sent by the Secretary of the Board informing the applicant of the decision.
The BZA has the following duties:
Hear and decide appeals about administrative decisions or determinations related to the Zoning Code.
Hear and decide appeals concerning reconstruction or restoration of Class A Nonconformities.
Hear and decide appeals concerning decisions of the Planning Board related to the Zoning Code.
Hear and decide appeals requesting variances to the dimensional requirements of the Zoning Code.
2Typically, these include: front, side or rear yard variances, reduction in the amount of parking required by Code, or variances to allow less lot area for a residential unit than is required by Code.
3The following criteria are set forth in the Code to determine hardship or practical difficulty:
Compliance with Code will make it difficult to use the property in a reasonable manner. For example, when the existing layout of the structure is such that an additional (i.e., kitchen or bedroom) can only reasonably be placed in a certain location and that addition will be in conflict with a dimensional requirement of the Code.
Hardship is not caused by action of the applicant; that is, the need of an oversized garage cannot be justified just to store already collected items or junk.
Hardship is unique to this lot; that is, its size, shape, topography or other physical characteristic created a hardship or practical difficulty.
4The standards used to determine the compatibility of the appeal request with the surrounding area is as follows:
The proposed use will be of such location, size and character that it will be in harmony with the appropriate and orderly development of the surrounding neighborhood.
The proposed use will be of a nature that will make vehicular and pedestrian traffic no more hazardous than is normal for the district involved, taking into consideration vehicular turning movements in relation to routes of traffic flow, proximity and relationship to intersections, adequacy of sight distances, location and access of off-street parking and provisions for pedestrian traffic, with particular attention to minimizing child/vehicle conflicts in residential districts.
The location, size, intensity, site layout and periods of operation of any such proposed use will be designed to eliminate a possible nuisance emanating wherefrom which might be noxious to the occupants of any other nearby permitted uses, whether by reason of dust, noise, fumes, vibration, smoke or lights.
The location and height of structures and joint driveways and the location, nature and height of walls and fences will be such that the proposed use will not interfere with or discourage the appropriate development and use of adjacent land and structure or unreasonably affect their value.
Can a decision of the BZA be appealed? Yes
The decisions of the BZA are final. However, a decision of the BZA may be appealed to Circuit Court within 21 days of the denial.