Zoning and land use management comprises of a system of legal regulations and requirements which apply to land for purposes of achieving harmonious and desirable development of the built environment.
Each property in a local authority has its set of regulations designed to control the use thereof. Such regulations are determined through the zoning of that property. Property zoning regulations are set out in the relevant Town Planning Scheme, which determines various aspects including permissible zoning and land use, coverage, floor area, parking provisions and building lines. Currently, there are various Town Planning Schemes for different areas in the local authority. It is therefore important for homeowners to establish the type of scheme that applies to their particular area, as the schemes’ specific requirements tend to differ.
In addition to zoning regulations, conditions of title also control development. Such conditions are presented in the Title Deeds of every property, and may restrict the manner in which the property may undergo development. Other pieces of legislation which regulate development are the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act 103 or 1977 (ie. house plans); the Public Health Bylaws, as well as other different Municipal Bylaws. Any land development that is not in compliance with this legislation and its varying sets of regulations may lead to prosecution with regards to the applicable legislation.
You may obtain zoning regulations, along with the correct property description, size details and orientation from the Town Planning information counter of your local authority. You may also establish details of restrictions set out in your Title Deed when you obtain a copy of the Title Deed from the Deeds office, or from the Financial Institution or Bank that is holding the mortgage bond. A Building Control department may provide you with information concerning the National Building. All this should be done before you even begin the process of having house plans drawn.
If your proposed property development requires changes in the zoning regulations or an amendment of title conditions, this can be done, although it would require an application and a formal procedure. There are many different types of applications, many of which are legally and technically complex. It is therefore wise to consult a professional town planning consultant or other professionals such as a lawyer or land surveyor who will undertake the application process on your behalf.
Certain proposals for development may not require rezoning or removal of restrictive conditions, but may nevertheless require the permission of the municipality. These are referred to as Consent Applications and are typically less complex, although are required to be technically and legally correct.
Proposals for the development of agricultural land portions or small holdings would require much more than mere changes in zoning or removal of restrictive conditions. Effectively, these are proposals for the establishment of townships, which would require professional expertise. Forms for the different application types may be obtained from the Registration Section of Zoning and Land Use Management.
All proposals for changing the permitted development and use of land must undergo evaluation by the Council on the basis of various considerations. The most important consideration is the development policy of the municipality. This policy document offers a guideline as to the type of zoning and land use and developmental changes that are acceptable within the vision and goals of your local authority. This document is normally drawn up with the involvement of different affected communities. Generally, all proposals that are in accordance with the policy document are likely to gain support. Proposals that are not in line with the policy are unlikely to be recommended for approval by the Zoning and Land Use Management Department. Most local authorities are divided into regions and districts, and every region has a policy framework document that is specific to the town planning factors that are specific to that region. You may obtain information on these policies from your Land Use Management Department.
Not only are there costs of preparing a town planning application – advertising, professional fees, plan documents – but there is also the application fee that is payable to the local authority. The application fees that are payable to the local authority vary. Moreover, should an application for development be approved, this may entail payment of monetary contributions to the local authority for the anticipated use of additional services such as electricity, sewers, water supply and road improvements.
Depending on the application type, it may take as long as 12 months to obtain a decision. Following submission of the application, it will be circulated to the relevant municipal agencies and departments for comment. The application will then be processed by a planning officer who will make a recommendation as to whether or not the application should be approved. If the recommendation of the official is to oppose the application, and where objections have been lodged by interested parties, a Tribunal Hearing would be scheduled with the applicant, municipal officials and objectors being provided the opportunity to argue their case. Any party that is not satisfied by the decision of the Tribunal may appeal to the Provincial Authority or Townships Board, which would further delay the process.
You are only permitted use or to allow the use or development of your property according to its legal usage as described in the zoning scheme of the Local authority. If you are not aware of the zoning and land use or development rights that relate to your property, or know whether a specific proposal or activity will be permitted, you should consult your district planning office.
If you require planning approval for the activity or proposed development that you want to undertake, simply contact your local district planning office to obtain application forms, along with a list of the supporting documentation required for submission. For cases that are more complicated, you should consider appointing a consultant to assist in the preparation of the application. Once you have submitted your application and paid the required fees, the official will check your application to verify whether it is complete. You will then be issued an application number for your reference.
Once your application is accepted as complete and valid, it will be advertised to any parties that may be potentially affected, and circulated to the relevant internal and other governmental departments for comments. Should any objections arise, you will be provided with an opportunity to respond or amend the proposal as a way of addressing them. Thereafter a final assessment of the application, which may include writing a report to a council committee or to the provincial government will be made and thereafter a decision taken. The outcome will be communicated to you in writing.
Restrictive title deed conditions may prohibit or prevent a property from being utilized for a particular purpose, or from being developed in a specific way. You may apply to the Local authority for the relevant restriction to be suspended, amended or removed. The final decision will be made by the provincial government. Alternatively, you may apply to a court of law to expunge the relevant restriction from your title deed. For advice and application forms, contact your local authority’s planning office.
You may apply to obtain new or additional zoning and land use or development rights through rezoning (change of existing rights), consent use (additional rights) or departure from the zoning scheme (new or additional rights).
Consult your planning official regarding the likelihood of a request for a departure being granted. Thereafter, you may complete the relevant application forms and provide supporting documentation. Building plans for the proposed building or development may be submitted only after the approval for the departure application.
The Local authority may require that a developer submit a detailed plan for site development, in the event that detailed site layout and design specifics for the proposed development are vital for its consideration. This is typically a condition for approval in a rezoning or subdivision application, or may be required in terms of the zoning scheme. Site development plans typically consist of a set of drawings or plans and cover various aspects including building positioning, architectural details, parking arrangements and vehicular access, engineering and landscaping services.