Changing Your Land’s Zoning from Residential to Agricultural

Obtaining the perfect piece of land for your agricultural operation is one of the most important aspects of a solid business foundation.

Unfortunately, if your property is not zoned for that particular use, you could find yourself stuck. 

Changing your land’s zoning from residential to agricultural may not be an easy process, but depending on your intention, it could be well worth the effort. 

The Importance of Zoning

Zoning dictates various land use activities by classification for the purposes of planning and safety. Though zoning types may vary, most municipalities will zone land in the following general categories:

  • Residential,
  • Commercial,
  • Industrial,
  • Agricultural,
  • Recreational, and
  • Historical.

There are often subcategories that provide more detailed specifics on how the land can and cannot be used in each zone. 

Florida Ag Zoning

Zoned agricultural lands are areas that have been designated by local jurisdictions with the intention to guard farming land use against incompatible non-farming activities.

One of the primary uses of this type of zone is to prevent conflicts between urban and agricultural land use. An ag zoned property does not necessarily have to be used for agricultural operations. 

How to Change Zoning from Residential to Agricultural

All requests for rezoning must be processed through the county or municipality where the specific property is located. Before considering changing your land’s zoning from residential to agricultural, you may want to consider speaking to a county planner to determine the likelihood of success given the exact location of the property in relation to other similarly zoned parcels.

You may also choose to employ the help of an agriculture property attorney to help in this process. 

Types of Zoning Changes

Rezoning may not be the only option available to you. In some cases, it may be easier to apply for a temporary change to the ag zoning such as a special exception permit or zone variance permit. A variance grants a property owner the legal right to use the property in a way that is contrary to local zoning for that property.

Special exception zoning decisions are often made before the zoning process is completed. The third option is getting the property legally and permanently rezoned. 

Zoning Variance

A zoning variance is granted when a property owner demonstrates an undue hardship. The hardship must exist because of unique circumstances not created by the property owner. Ignorance of the zoning law does not equal hardship. 

There are two different types of zoning variances. A use variance allows the property to be used in a way that is prohibited in that zoning district. An area variance provides leniency on dimensional restrictions. This variance is used primarily for height restrictions or setback requirements. 

Special Exception or Special Use Permit

A special exception or use permit is applicable when using the property outside of zoning restrictions would adversely affect public health, safety, or any other concerns specified by the county.

Exceptions are only available if specific limitations are set in place and conditions are met to address the concerns.

Property Rezoning 

Counties and municipalities have significant discretion on a rezoning approval. Proposals must follow procedures outlined by each local government. Rezoning typically requires evaluation by local officials such as the city planning commission, agriculture commissioner, and others.

Community members may put pressure on elected officials to confirm or deny the land owner’s application. Rezoning may be considered under certain circumstances which include:

  • The original property zoning contained an error or oversight,
  • Geographical changes in the surrounding area prevent use of the property under its current zoning, or
  • The rezoning request is consistent with the local government’s long-term land use plan. 

It is important to have substantial evidence to support the rezoning. Seeking assistance from an experienced Florida property lawyer is a good way to increase your chance of success in changing your land’s zoning from residential to agricultural.

Florida Rezoning Procedures

Speaking to local officials responsible for land management is a great place to start the process. Often, local officials will be able to give you a better understanding of the potential success of an application for ag zoning. An attorney can also help you with this initial step prior to starting the official application process.

The process of changing your land’s zoning from residential to agricultural differs between counties, though most follow similar general guidelines.

Application Filing

First you will need to obtain an application for rezoning from the county or municipality’s zoning office or department. You will also have to pay the application fee. 

Review of the Application

Next, the zoning staff will review your application. They will then make a written recommendation to the county board of commissioners. 

Public Hearing

The community has a right to weigh in on zoning decisions. Public notice is posted in advance of the hearing. The applicant may be required to make a statement about their request or respond to questions from the public and elected officials. 

Rezoning Decisions

Finally, the board of county commissioners receives the recommendation and renders a decision on the rezoning application. Appeal is unlikely for most decisions. 

Should You Hire a Property Lawyer for Ag Zoning?

The rezoning application process alone requires strict attention to detail and the ability to provide a convincing argument that conveys the benefit of rezoning for all parties potentially impacted. Rezoning can also have crucial tax implications that you should consider before making a decision on the specific type of zone you would like your property to be classified as. The worst mistake you could make for your property would be to underestimate the implications of your decision.

Groves Law understands the nuances of Florida property law and can advise you on the best strategy for how to change zoning from residential to agricultural, whether that is through a zoning variance, a special exemption, or rezoning. Contact us today to begin the process of changing your land’s zoning from residential to agricultural, so you can get one important step closer to using your property in a meaningful way.

Because we’re attorneys: This blog post is provided on an “as is” and “as available” basis as of the date of publication. We disclaim any duty to update or correct any information contained in this blog post, including errors, even if we are notified about them. To the fullest extent permitted by law, we disclaim all representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied with respect to the information contained in this blog post, including, but not limited to, warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title, non-infringement, accuracy, completeness, and timeliness. We will not be liable for damages of any kind arising from or in connection with your use of or reliance on this blog post, including, but not limited to, direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, and punitive damages. You agree to use this blog post at your own risk. Regarding your particular circumstances, we recommend that you consult your own legal counsel (hopefully Groves Law).

Author Photo

Kara Groves

After earning her law degree from University of Florida Levin College of Law and working as a tort defense litigator, Kara is settling down and bought some acreage out in Mount Dora. She has returned to her sustainable, regulatory background to help farmers and locally-focused businesses innovate and capitalize on direct-to-consumer movements across the state. In her off time, Kara is an avid gardener and cook. You’ll often find her in downtown Mount Dora adding to her plant collection or taking client meetings in the local brewery and marketplace.

Rate this Post

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5