Conditional Use Permits: What and How You Get Them

Any veteran of real estate construction, both residential and commercial, will know what conditional use permits are; however, the wheat is separated from the chaff when it comes time to apply for one. Most real estate professionals will shy away from working on a conditional use permit due to the complicated and ever-changing nature of them.  Permit Advisors does conditional use permits all over the country 24/7 and has compiled a brief definition and some good questions to ask along the way. While this article will give a brief overview remember: it is always better to get a professional to handle Conditional Use Permits (CUPs).

Definition: Conditional Use Permits, or CUPs for short, are permits that allow for a use otherwise restricted for a particular zone for that parcel of land. Just like the name reveals the permit is approved upon a set of conditions. Those conditions are set forth by the municipality the land falls within.

For example, you have a shell of shop in a shopping center and would like to put a little café in the space. During your due diligence you find the parcel the shell falls under is zoned for use as an office space (highly unlikely, but stick with me here) and your little cafe will not be allowed. You call or visit the local planning department and find all sorts of red flags when you describe your project. Usually, the planning official will print out a seemingly mile long checklist of items that you will need to do in order to get your building permit. Also, there are fees and a slew of people to contact. Basically, the planning official tells you: it isn’t impossible to get your permit for the cafe, but you will need to get approval by meeting a set of conditions and paying the fees.

How Do I Get a Conditional Use Permit?

There are no complete straight-forward checklists that bridge the universal gap of most jurisdictions have authority (JHA), however there are certain basics that can be adapted to most JHAs. Here, I will put down the most important big picture items to help you get started. Again, there is no hard and fast rule that covers all JHA’s but if you give Permit Advisors a call we can help you get specifics. Okay, let’s get to some basics you can adapt!

Due Diligence

But, I already do due diligence! What I mean here is a specific due diligence for the CUP. Here are some questions you can ask:

-What is the specific process for my type of project?

-How do you determine fees? (here, sometimes you can make adjustments to your project)

-Who is the planner I will be working with on this? Can I have his/her contact information?

-What, specifically, is the planning code for the use I want?

-Can you get me in contact with the local neighborhood council for this area?

-When and how often does the neighborhood council meet?

-How long do I need to post notices?

-What is the current timeframe for a CUP? Do you have a program to expedite?

Call the Neighborhood Council

Duh! Okay, let’s backtrack a little here. Yes, you will call the neighborhood council, but first you should look at who from the neighborhood council will be your ally. Then, call specifically that council member. Even if they don’t 100% endorse you here they can help educate you on the process more intimately. Again, this is if you make the unwise decision to do this CUP yourself. A good way around this is to hire a professional with an established relationship with the neighborhood council.

Whatever the Fee on Paper is…Double It

This sounds cynical but, if you are planning to do a CUP yourself chances are some mistakes will be made, and unfortunately at this level mistakes tend to be expensive. Pad your project when it comes to CUPs, and double is a good number as sometimes fees are charged per day and per application submittal. If you have to re-submit (or do the same action twice) you will be paying double anyway. This may be the hardest advice to swallow because, let’s be honest, anything to do with money is hard to swallow. But, in the end you will be breathing a sigh of relief that you had the extra cash on hand.

Have Patience

This isn’t technical advice but so important I threw it in here anyway. No matter how much time and money you throw at something as complex as a CUP, unforeseen variables will pop up.  It never does well to lose patience with the JHA or elected official. Remember, their job is to ensure the safety and health of their people so, to a certain extent, let the process work. It may not be pretty, efficient, or even professional but sometimes a moment of patience in a high pressure conversation can build a lasting relationship for you.

Get a Professional

If I haven’t harped on the point of hiring an expert for your CUP I haven’t educated you enough. Look at CUPs like going to a car mechanic, sure you could figure it out yourself and work on your car in your garage, but in the end a good mechanic will save you time and money. If you get a good mechanic, they will save you time, money, and frustration. Vet an expert that has:

  1. Knowledge of the JHA you’re working in
  2. Experience in the JHA you’re working in with the type of project you’re doing
  3. Relationships with key people in the JHA you’re working.
  4. Willing to go the extra mile for you when necessary, because it will be
  5. A good reputation in the industry

A reliable and trustworthy expert is worth the money you’ll be paying them. There are many government liason consulting services out there and paying careful attention to the details above will pay you dividends in the end. Permit Advisors meets all the criteria above and will be happy to assist you in your CUP needs. Call or email us today for a consultation and customized proposal.

About Permit Advisors: Permit Advisors Inc. is a complete permit, entitlement consulting, and expediting firm based out of Beverly Hills, Ca. We go beyond just submitting plans, as you may have experienced with previous expediters. We have established strong relationships with officials of many municipalities and have numerous time and cost saving strategies that we implement to efficiently complete projects. We aim to secure all permits as quickly as possible! We keep track of all the different aspects of the permitting process and make sure that the project is being given full attention by everyone on the team. We responsibly update clients and ensure that lines of communication are open between the Jurisdiction, the consultants and the client at all times. Contact us today for a consultation www.permitadvisors.com.

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Feb 29, 2016 By admin