Zoning Classifications and Property Descriptions Can be Confusing

Zoning classifications and property descriptions are meant to organize and clarify, but they often just confuse. Land use in Tulare County is divided into thirty-one zone classifications. All zoning designated with an “R” is residential. For example, “R-1” is zoned for single-family residential and “R-2” is zoned for single-family residential or two-family dwellings (like duplexes). “AE” indicates exclusively agricultural zones. The number following “AE” is the minimum acreage—as in “AE-10.” “C” identifies commercial land. “C-1” is zoned for neighborhood commercial such as banks, grocery stores, and restaurants. Manufacturing zoning categories include “M-1” (light) and “M-2” (heavy).

If a physical circumstance creates a hardship in the county, a Zone Variance Application can be submitted to the Tulare County Resource Management Agency (RMA). The Planning Commission evaluates each zone variance request on its own merits. There is an initial $3,490 deposit due when filing a zone variance request. Each city in Tulare County has its own process for evaluating and approving variances.

Beyond remedying hardship brought about by physical circumstances, there is another approach for altering zoning. The basic process for changing the zoning of a particular piece of land in the county begins with filing a letter of request and a Zone Change Initiation Application with the Tulare County RMA. The Board of Supervisors hears the request. If the request is approved, a Zone Change Application is filed with the RMA and heard before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.

The base filing fee for a Zone Change Initiation Application is $3,333. According to the Tulare County RMA, the average cost for processing a Zone Change Application is $5,417. Land currently impacted by airport proximity or State Fish & Game Department concerns may be subject to additional fees for zoning changes. Cities throughout the county have their own unique procedures for assessing and granting zoning changes.

Not to be confused with zoning classifications, property descriptions like “strip mall” (a typically open-air facility anchored by a big retail chain) help to focus categorization of property usage for government, investors, and community planners. Similar sounding land usage descriptions such as “business park” and “industrial park” often lead to confusion—“business parks” are areas of land with several office buildings located together, whereas “industrial parks” are locations set aside for industrial development. To add to the potential confusion, there are now “eco-industrial parks” (EIPs). EIPs are essentially industrial parks that purposively strive to maximize efficiency and minimize pollution. Zoning issues are complex and can vary by jurisdiction.

— William Menke is a Realtor with the Guarantee Real Estate Flex Office. He can be reached at [email protected]

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