Like all cities in Mississippi, Meridian has an ordinance that is colloquially known as the Zoning Code. The city also has a comprehensive plan. Very few people in the city apart from the employees of the Planning Division can distinguish one from another or explain how the two documents govern land use in the city. Most purchasers and owners of residential property have little or no reason to challenge either document, but commercial developers and property owners often find that their business interests are tightly controlled by the Zoning Code. This blog will explain the function of the Zoning Code and Comprehensive Plan and demonstrate how each regulates the use of land within the city’s limits.
The Comprehensive Plan
The City’s Comprehensive Plan is a document that consists of two parts: a written text and a map of the city showing how the uses of each parcel are to be determined over five or more years. The plan sets forth goals and objectives for differed areas in the city based upon existing uses, nature of the land, neighboring uses, and the kind of desired growth for these areas. The comprehensive plan does not directly tell landowners how to use their land, but the city council and planning commission are responsible for ensuring that the zoning code comports with the provisions of the comprehensive plan. The map that is part of the comprehensive plan demonstrates graphically how the goals of the plan will be carried out.
The Zoning Code
The Zoning Code is a city ordinance that specifies the allowable use of every parcel of real estate in the city. Like the Comprehensive Plan, the Zoning Code consists of a map and a text. The Zoning Map divides the city into a number of zoning districts and defines the allowable uses in each district. This map is often amended by the City Council to permit uses that were not considered by the Council in adopting the map. The Zoning Ordinance prohibits any uses in a district that are not expressly permitted by the Code. The Code permits six general types of uses: agricultural, residential, residential business transition, neighborhood business, general business, regional business, central business, and industrial. The Code also permits special zoning districts and several different types of “overlay” districts to accommodate a combination of uses that are not expressly permitted elsewhere.
Experienced developers will consult both the Zoning Map and the Zoning Code before submitting an application for approval of a given project.
How an attorney can help
Real estate development can be a complex process. Anyone who is interested in building on a specific parcel would be greatly assisted by advice from an experienced real estate attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can provide advice on the permitted uses in a given district and whether the zoning code can by changed or altered if the developer’s plans do not fit the code’s exact terms.