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2
May
2019

Land use and zoning explained: Repurposing an established building through a special use permit

The commercial real estate and property sector in Northern Virginia and Prince William County has experienced fluctuations in recent years which resulted in vacant buildings. For the owners of these properties, they’re left with a tough decision – let the property stay vacant or repurpose the property.

Repurposing property is using a building differently than the original intent. As a property owner, you are looking for cost-effective ways to keep your investment profitable.  For example, If you turn an old factory into loft apartments, or a barn into an event center, the building sees new life, you continue to make money, and all without building on existing green space. But it isn’t always that easy to change land use of an existing property.

Land use considerations

Land use laws regulate how businesses can operate on certain lands. The most common form of land use regulation is zoning. Cities use this legal process all across the country to help regulate their local development. Zoning laws prevent you from coming home to your well-established housing neighborhood and finding a big box store has set up shop next door.

While it’s not likely for a big box store to pop up next to houses, it is possible as in our earlier example, for a factory to become loft apartments. The zoning for that land must change to account for residents living on the property instead of people coming to work. Without making this change, it puts both the business operator and you, the property owner, in legal peril. It’s up to you to make sure the city allows the land use modification.

Special use permit (SUP)

A special use permit allows a local government to take a look at one particular development and to impose conditions needed to mitigate any impacts on the community. It is available only if the zoning ordinance provides for it.

To obtain a special use permit, you must get approval from the governing body in your community. You need to file an application, submit the filing fee, provide documentation supporting your request, and submit to questioning at a public hearing.  See the steps outlined below:

The process to obtain a SUP