How Can a Town Planner Help You with Land Use Applications?

As a property owner, you have the option of subdividing your property to sell one of the sections if the property is large enough and the layout allows for a sub-division. You will need the help of a town planner with the application for a subdivision. Likewise, you can decide to consolidate two or more properties in order to build a residential estate, resort or use the property for an office park if the municipal policy supports the principle hereof. In this instance, you will also need the expertise of a town planner for the consolidation of land application and the rezoning of the property to allow for the new land use, if it is not already zoned for the intended use.

Perhaps you only want the right to operate a business from the premises while you still stay on the property. This may require a consent of use application with which the town planner can assist. So, why the need to apply for the consent of use or rezoning of a property if you want to change the land use and why do you need the help of a town planner with the process? We’ll briefly answer these questions below, helping you to understand the role of the town planner in the process.


Zoning and Your Property

The municipality governs a particular area defined by the National Demarcation Board. The municipality imposes specific regulations for buildings and land use within the larger national framework for spatial planning and land-use management. Every property in the particular municipal area is zoned for permissable land use including the basic categories of:

• residential;
• business; and
• industrial.

Within each of the broader zoning categories, there are different sub-categories. For residential, the zoning can, for instance, be Residential 1, 2, or 3. The number pertains to the type of residential use and each sub-category may be subject to a different occupational density. On a Residential 1 property, you can only usually have one dwelling whereas, on a Residential 2 property you may be allowed to have say as 10 to 20 dwellings per hectare. Residential 3 and 4 dwellings allow for even higher densities. In order to use the property for a purpose for which it has not been zoned, you must apply for rezoning of the property. This is done with the help of a town planner who submits the application request to the municipality. This must be done before you can use the piece of property for the new intended purpose.


Do You Always Have to Apply for Rezoning?

With many property owners running businesses from their homes, you may wonder why they are permitted to do so if their properties are not zoned for business. If you are operating a business from home with a limited number of employees and don’t have many customers visiting to the premises, you typically don’t have to apply for rezoning a Residential 1 property. This will depend on the nature and size of the business component. However, if you have to erect signs on the property to indicate the business name or have suppliers and customer dropping in on a regular basis and thus have an increase in parking and traffic to the area, you may have to apply for rezoning or some form of consent.

If a consent is possible, the primary use remains residential, but you add the use for which you are granted consent. If you don’t use the property during the time for which consent has been given, the consent use right may lapse. This type of right is in place to allow your business to grow. If it has to expand beyond the consent limitation and attracts more and more traffic, you will eventually have to move it to a business property or rezone (if possible).

For the purpose of the rezoning, the town planner submits the application, which involves a site plan and various processes, including public participation. The neighbours may oppose the rezoning application because they feel that the new development will cause an increase in traffic, crime or perhaps change in the character of the neighbourhood. The town planner addresses such concerns through a public participation process which may include having to appear before a Municipal Planning Tribunal.

To this end, it is also good to remember that purchasing a residential property with the intention to have it rezoned should not be done without completing a prior due diligence investigation. The town planner may assess the property to determine if it may be suited for the intended purpose. Factors such as servitudes registered on the property, access routes, distance from intersections, geographical characteristics, vegetation, and more are evaluated. The town planner may guide you on the process of rezoning, how long it will take and what the potential for success may be.

If you want to consolidate land, sub-divide property, or apply for consent or rezoning, make use of our team of town planners to help you through the process.