What do I need to know about Zoning in Fort Lauderdale?


Zoning, Zoning, Zoning – A Fort Lauderdale Attorney’s Guide to Zoning

Location, location, location. A restaurant with a beachside view walking distance from a myriad of hotels can command high prices and has a built-in marketing tool. Location is a key factor in determining whether your business succeeds or fails. Before you settle on a Fort Lauderdale property you deem desirable for your business, you should consider hiring a Fort Lauderdale zoning attorney to review zoning regulations to ensure they align with your business needs.

Zoning regulations have been on the rise since 1980, so it’s more important than ever to understand land use/zoning laws in Broward County and Fort Lauderdale and how these regulations could potentially affect your business. Ultimately, you’ll want to seek advice from a Fort Lauderdale Land Use and Zoning attorney, but for now, let’s get a basic understanding of what zoning is and the avenues through which we may be able to change restrictions so as to maximize business potential.

What is Zoning?

Zoning is the process through which local government divides up land into zones and applies permissions and restrictions as part of urban planning. Because the control of zoning is on a municipal level, it has a significant impact on the local community and is often a passionate issue.


A variance is a request to diverge from a zoning ordinance to allow use of the property in a way that would otherwise be prohibited. For example, the construction of a “tiny home” in a residential zoning district that requires minimum square footage, would require a variance. If the variance is granted, this does not mean the zoning law has changed, it means a waiver has been granted. When you apply for a variance, you must be able to show the existing zoning restriction causes a hardship in that the only way to reasonably use the property is to lift the zoning prohibition.

Variance Process

Submit a complete application package to the Fort Lauderdale Planning and Zoning Board whose nine appointed members apply the city’s plan when reviewing development proposals. The fee ranges from $480 to $600. As you can see, it can be quite intimidating to navigate your way to the correct application and decisively determine your total fees. This is why it’s always advisable to have a Land Use and Zoning attorney to lead you through the process.

Special Use Permits

Quite often, landowners confuse special use permits and variances.

A Special Use Permit allows for a conditional use of the property in a way that is otherwise not permitted by the zoning ordinance. Sound familiar? The difference is the applicant does not have to prove hardship due to a restriction. Instead, the business tends to have a positive impact on public interest and avoids negative impacts on neighboring areas. Common special use permits are granted for home businesses such as hair salons, daycare, or tax services, for example.

Special Use Permits Process

This is an application process under the umbrella of the Fort Lauderdale Planning and Zoning Board, but the Development and Review Committee considers your Special Use/Conditional Use application and the total fees range from $1100 – $2000.

Non-Conforming Uses

Just like Variances and Special Use Permits, Non-Conforming Uses is the use of property that is normally a violation of the zoning ordinance. Non-Conforming Use is allowed because the landowner used the land in a non-conforming way BEFORE the zoning ordinance existed. Quite often, the uses are referred to being grandfathered into a zoning ordinance.

Non-Conforming Uses Process

It must be proven that the non-conforming use had been continuous with no lapses in time prior to the implementation of the current zoning ordinance.

Eminent Domain

Eminent domain is when the government takes private property and turns it into public use, such as building roads, government buildings, and parks as well as protection of historic landmarks and wetlands. If the government zones part of your property in such a way that you cannot make use of it, you may be able to sue for compensation. To learn more please take a look at Overview of Eminent Domain in Florida or consult your Land Use and Zoning attorney.

Applying for a Change of Zoning

If the zoning ordinance on a piece of land does not align with the zoning you need, you may apply for a Change of Zoning. The reasons for the requested change should be supported by drawings, surveys, photographs, and models, which may involve hiring additional professionals.

If you are thinking about the possibility of trying to amend the current zoning, we encourage you to consult with your Land Use and Zoning attorney.

Applying for a Change of Zoning Process

To apply for a change of zoning in Fort Lauderdale, you must complete the application process through the Development and Review Committee. The first review is to determine completeness of the application and if changes are needed. You will then have the chance to appear before the committee to present your case. The application fee is $1,010 and you may be subject to any costs incurred by the City.

Before You Do Anything

If you’re in Broward County and you have a potential zoning issue, contact the Fort Lauderdale law firm of Loshak Leach LLP for a free consultation.

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