What are Zoning & Planning Services?

Zoning and planning services have typically been the domain of land use attorneys, but our technology-forward approach and our team’s diverse skillsets enable us to prepare zoning assessments and reports, obtain variations and special use permits, and rezone property more efficiently.

The problem

Zoning and planning services can be expensive and have unpredictable outcomes.

Solutions & services

Our suite of developer services have predictable fees and produce consistent reports and analysis. This set of zoning and planning services ensures that business and property owners become aware of past issues, present policies, and future demands and regulations.

Services include:

  • Variations, Special Uses, Administrative Adjustments, and Minor Relief

  • Zoning Report (Basic) - For current zoning rules & regulations

  • Zoning Report (Plus) - For potential zoning changes

  • Architectural & Entitlement Research

  • Rezoning

  • Due Diligence


Services details

Variations, Special Uses, Administrative Adjustments, and Minor Relief

Variations (also known as variances), special uses, administrative adjustments, and minor relief are needed by homeowners and other building and property owners to make minor changes to property uses and layouts. Additionally, sometimes small business owners need a variation or special use before opening. A minor relief is used for Planned Developments to request minor changes to a PD agreement without amending the PD.

MAPS’s services include:

  • Obtain variations & special use permits from Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), including for beauty salons, medical cannabis dispensaries, and enlarged uses in Planned Manufacturing Districts (PMDs)

  • Writing administrative adjustment requests and assembling the documentation and rationale necessary to support the request

  • Provide expert report and testimony for projects that need to appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals

  • Help clients to apply for variations and special use permits sooner by bypassing zoning review in some cases


Zoning Report (Basic)

A Zoning Report (Basic), also known as a PZR, answers the question, “What am I allowed to do with this property?” They are most commonly required by lenders prior to closing on a property transaction. A basic zoning report can also be a useful tool to help property owners and architects understand what’s buildable on a given lot.

A concise and accurate report that details zoning rules and regulations for a property given its current zoning classification. The report also can also include details about parking requirements, and historical building or district status. Lenders and banks often require a zoning report to refinance a property.

Add-ons:

  • Incentives Checkup that shows potential eligibility for up to 20 location-based financial incentives for various kinds of development. See Incentives Checkup for more details.

  • Site Transportation Review to outline mobility options to and from the site, alternatives to driving and parking, and potential traffic and transit impacts.

  • Building Violations Review to show past and present building violations, including if any are still marked as “open”.

  • Sign Calculation will determine the type of sign a building can have and the allowable sign area. MAPS can also obtain a sign permit for the project.


Zoning Report (Plus) - With rezoning recommendations

With Zoning Report Plus, MAPS will provide recommendations for zoning changes (rezoning) that are specific to your intentions or desires for the property. This report will describe what could be done with a future zoning classification, details the pattern of zoning changes in the area, and provides an assessment of the political landscape. Based on the project needs, MAPS can also explain sign rules, riverwalk requirements, and other applicable regulations.

We like to call these “zoning vignettes", to sketch out a possible building program on a given site.

Add-ons:

  • Site Transportation Review to outline mobility options to and from the site, includes a discussion on how people may access the site, and potential traffic and transit impacts.

  • Incentives Checkup that shows potential eligibility for 18 location-based financial incentives for various kinds of development. See Incentives Checkup for more details.

  • Building Violations Review to show past and present building violations, including if any are still marked as “open”.

  • Sign Calculation will determine the type of sign a building can have and the allowable sign area. MAPS can also obtain a sign permit for the project.


Architectural & Entitlement Research

MAPS has an expert research team who are adept at finding and obtaining historical information, including various kinds of records, building drawings, historical building uses and history, landmark preservation reports, and more.

Rezoning

MAPS can obtain a zoning change amendment (rezoning) for all kinds of cases where the client is looking to offer different uses, increase the allowable density, or change a building’s or property’s conformance.

Examples of other situations where zoning changes can be necessary:

  • Homeowners and other property owners who want to get their property out of non-conforming status

  • Restaurateurs and café owners who want to add an outdoor patio

  • Allow additional dwelling units on a lot

  • Include taverns or other uses as a permitted use in a commercial or retail building

Due Diligence

MAPS’s due diligence (DD) services are quick while accurate. Some examples of our unique Due Diligence work:

Finding units for off-site ARO (site selection)

A client wanted to find an off-site apartment building in which to build their required ARO units. Because of our work, the client can now build an additional apartment in the building (which is a low cost construction project), increasing the value of the building and also knocking off another unit from their ARO unit requirement.

How? Chicago zoning law allows an additional apartment to be built within an older apartment building if you can prove that it had an additional apartment when it was built over 50 years ago. We found a piece of information that showed that the apartment existed and was removed at some point in the past.

Developing site vignettes

As you acquire properties with an intent to do more than hold the asset or do a covered land play, we can help you create "site vignettes". These are discussions/reports/analysis/designs that talk about "what if": What can be built or adapted, or what could the tenant mix be, if we got a different entitlement. With our command of the zoning code, knowledge of neighborhood group sentiments, and use of historical zoning change data, we can recommend an ideal site use and help you predict the likelihood of getting the entitlement change.

Incentives Checkup

MAPS has exclusive access to the only database of location-based financial and development incentives in Illinois and select parts of the United States that allows us to find properties where there could be multiple incentives, in addition to Opportunity Zones. We also have experience in helping clients obtain Class L landmark tax breaks.


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