By Bill Adams, MBA, CCIM, ALC, CRB, Founder, Adams Realtors
Many of our commercial real estate transactions involve urban properties in areas where the land use is in transition, meaning rezoning is often inevitable. A good example is a property that Adams Realtors’ Michael Reeves, CCIM sold in 2020 at Boulevard and the Atlanta Beltline in Atlanta’s Grant Park neighborhood. The existing building on the property was an industrial, cold storage facility that was both functionally and economically obsolete. The property’s purchaser is building a mixed-use project with ground level retail and 323 apartment units. Like similar “infill” projects, the property had to be rezoned.
For complex projects like the one mentioned above, hiring an experienced zoning attorney will be an invaluable part of the development team. For a developer considering a project where the land will have to be rezoned, a good first step is to review the local government’s Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP). For example, the City of Atlanta’s CDP is revised every five years and looks at land use 15 years into the future. The CDP may call for a future land use that meshes with your planned development.
As part of that first step, a developer will want to confirm the existing zoning and determine if there are any other regulations that may affect the use of a property. The property mentioned above is within the Atlanta Beltline Overlay District and just outside the Grant Park Historic District. For multifamily development, the city or county may have an inclusionary zoning regulation which calls for a certain percentage of the units to be set aside as affordable. To offset the inclusionary zoning set aside, the local government may offer a density bonus which allows a developer to increase the number of units planned for a multifamily development.
Once the developer has completed their initial regulatory due diligence, it is time to engage the neighborhood. I would suggest attending a neighborhood association meeting and checking out the neighborhood’s website to get the lay of the land in a community. When the developer has the property under contract and has some preliminary drawings, it is best to meet with the immediate neighbors to get their feedback. Sometimes a developer will receive strong pushback from the neighbors and will have to decide whether to kill the project or proceed. Many successful developers seek to collaborate with the neighbors on a project design that works for both parties. It is always best to have the community on your side when beginning a formal rezoning process.
The second part of this blog will discuss the steps from filing a rezoning application to its approval and the many opportunities along the way for the application to be turned down, adjusted and potentially approved.