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Laws can be strict, lenient or nonexistent

Zoning important consideration when buying property

Zoning laws, depending on the city or county in question, can be strict, lenient or nonexistent, and are an

important aspect to consider when purchasing a piece of property.

A change in zoning begins with a petition or action with the local zoning authority, which varies from

county to county and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Many people add a memo of support with their

petition, summarizing the public need for the change.

But no matter where one is, the only ways to get zoning changed are 1) if there was a mistake in the

original zoning or 2) the area has changed and there is a need for property in the new zoning.

After the petition or action is submitted to the local zoning authority, it goes to a committee that then

makes a recommendation to the governing body that really decides whether or not to grant the change.

If the parties are unhappy with the results of the vote on the zoning change, it can be appealed into court.

Mark C. Baker, with Baker Law Firm, P.C., does not see zoning laws as being difficult to deal with. On

the he contrary, he believes they are fairly consistent.

“To change zoning, the law is pretty well established and it’s a state law,” he said. “From the

standpoint of our zoning classifications, they differ from city to city, yes. But ultimately how something

is classified as residential or commercial, etc., should be consistent.”

K.F. Boackle, manager of Boackle & Associates PLLC, said he has never found zoning laws to be

difficult to deal with either.

“You have a procedure,” he said. “Whenever you go into a jurisdiction, you get a copy of their zoning

laws.”

Boackle added he did not think zoning laws could be classified by separating towns and counties.

“Everyone just has their own set of regulations,” he explained. “In a nutshell, you have to follow the

procedure and demonstrate a need for land zoned the way you want it zoned and you have to show there

has been a change in the area. And you have to convince the neighbors that it’s good or they’re going to

fight it.”

Rankin only county in tri-county area without zoning laws

Rankin is the only county of Hinds, Madison and Rankin that does not have any type of zoning, per se.

“You’re really on your own in the county,” said Larry Swales, Rankin County Board of Supervisors

president and District 2 supervisor.

But there are other requirements that have to be met within the county, Swales pointed out, such as the

Southern Standard Codes.

Swales said the absence of zoning laws in the county is not necessarily something to worry about when

it comes to commercial developments, though.

“Normally when you get into commercial you’re dealing with quality people,” he said.

“They’ve got to have quality in order to get people to be there to shop. We usually deal with a lot of

good folks in that area.”

Bill Brandon, building official with the Rankin County Board of Supervisors, said developments,

commercial or residential, are reviewed by county administrators through site plans.

“I think most people learn the hard way,” he said. “People don’t understand there are various versions

and various codes out there. Everyone has their own way of thinking, their own plans.

“Now I think people are getting used to the idea, and understanding it more and more for land use

planning, and understanding it even though it can be aggravating.”

Perspective is everything

J. Henry LaRose, with J. Henry LaRose Realtors, considered the metro area of Jackson the tightest in

regards to zoning laws and Rankin County the loosest because it has no zoning laws. But, he said, the

perspective is everything.

“If you’re the property owner and you just inherited this seven acres from your grandfather, you would

want the zoning to reflect the highest and best use,” LaRose said. “From a zoning standpoint, let’s say

you’re on the other side of the fence and don’t want more dense development so you’re probably going

to fight the zoning.”

LaRose believes zoning is a necessary instrument to orderly growth and control, but said, “Too few

people on city boards have read the book on city planning.”

Bob Heath, a Jackson resident, recently thought about purchasing some land in Madison County for his

blacksmith shop. Not a commercial investment, Heath thought the shop would not be a problem.

But when he went to purchase the land he was told he could not build his shop before building a house

first because the land was part of a platted subdivision.

“I was surprised that you can’t do anything with the land you want do to,” he said.

Heath said he understood that the zoning regulations were meant to protect investors, but considered it

pretty harsh that Madison County officials would not allow him to build a shop on the land.

“To restrict it to building a house first and then putting a shop in is a little unreasonable,” he said.

Heath abandoned the idea of building a blacksmith shop after his idea met strong opposition in the

county.

“This was nice land, perfect for what I wanted, but I just couldn’t do anything with it,” he said.

Mark Scarborough, owner of Scarborough Real Estate Company, had this advice for those wishing to

develop: “Make sure zoning is compatible with what you want to do. I try to know everything I have to

do up front so I know what to do for somebody. That way I’ve got a hard figure when I go to them.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.

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