Permit Advisors consults and advises, pun intended, on all sorts of commercial projects around the United States and we commonly are asked: Why do change of use permits take so long?
So, we’ve compiled some common questions about change of use permits and have answered them in this interview-style article.
First off, let’s start off by asking: what are change of use permits?
A Change of Use permit is required for a variety of situations. Changing the use of a building or facility may involve an extensive remodel or may require no physical changes at all; however, a city’s Building Code requires that any time there is a proposed change in the use of a building or space, a permit must be obtained. The change of use permit is intended to verify compliance with the applicable codes for a new use and provide a Certificate of Occupancy for new businesses or uses where there is no significant work that would otherwise require a building permit.
How are change of use permits different than conditional use permits?
Conditional use permits are permits that allow for a different use than what is traditionally allowed in a specified zone. In other words, if you want to put a church in a residential area you can as long as specific regulations are met and approved by the zoning authority. This conditional use permit is voided in the event conditions are not met.
Change of use permits essentially change the use of the space and must meet requirements specified by that use. Change of Use permits, once approved, will also require a new certificate of occupancy for the space. Essentially that space is now certified for that use as long as the basic permit requirements are met. This change of use permit and certificate of occupancy will stay with the property for the life of the parcel. Should another change of use or any other construction take place these documents will provide a history and precedence for the city to use.
So, why do change of use permits take so long?
Change of Use permits take a little longer because there are more departments the application must go through. Normally, city planning will need to review the plans, site map, and other specific criteria. In some cases, depending on the address of the project other departments must be consulted: historical preservation society, coastal commission, etc…In these cases, the city planning division will inform you of all the departments required.
After you go through the planning-historical-coastal-city council steps you must go through the building departments as usual. So, building department approval, mechanical, electrical, plumbing departments, the fire marshal, health, sanitation, green…you get the picture.
In short, it takes longer to get change of use permits because there are more approvals you have to get and each approval has its own list of requirements that must be met.
Who all is involved with a change of use permit?
This depends highly on the location, size, and scope of your project. It’s best to contact the jurisdiction to find out the specifics of your project. An even better method is to contact a permit specialist to act on your behalf. They will already have the local subject matter memorized, have the relationships with planners, and can represent your interests proactively. But, some examples of departments involved could be:
- historical preservation society
- coastal commission
- city council
This is an inconclusive list to serve as some examples of who all could be involved with your change of use permit.
How long should you expect when applying for a change of use permit? How much will fees be? What will I need to apply for the permit?
Review times, fees, and submittal requirements also depend on the jurisdiction, size, and scope of your project. A good rule of thumb: a high metro area with a large footprint project will equal longer times, higher fees, and more submittal requirements. Smaller less populated areas with a smaller scope project will have shorter review times, smaller fees, and basic submittal requirements.
Like everything with development, it is risky to do-it-yourself and the best use of time, money, and resources is to get a qualified expert on your side. This is easier said than done, however, and you will need to properly vet your expert. Call Permit Advisors and ask us any questions about any city in the United States and we can provide timely, accurate, and cost effective solutions. We are: