I looked to see if this has been discussed elsewhere but couldn't find anything. Please merge if I missed something.
How do you handle the dreaded “zoning letter” request? You know, those requests for zoning information on legal non-conforming status, rebuilds, code compliance, etc.?
As a practice, I have always tossed the form letter versions which ask me to cut and paste in their own words and just fill in the blank. I have also always refused to answer the question as to whether or not a property is in full compliance as it is not possible to know this without completing a full site plan review based on current conditions. I cannot tell Joe Blow whether the apartment complex built in 1968 fully complies with height, setback, density, etc. requirements of today since these requests for zoning letters do not typically include recent surveys. Furthermore, I do not believe that most municipalities are staffed to be able to complete this type of full review for every re-fi call that they receive. I’m much more comfortable answering all questions to the best of my knowledge using my own template and stating something along the lines of “while there are no known violations, this letter does not constitute a full site plan review and non-conformities may exist”.
I’m always happy to provide responses to requests for public records, but sometimes the appraisers are so lazy. The line between providing good service in compliance with sunshine laws and being used is blurry!
I’m curious how the rest of you handle these requests for information. I’m also always intrigued when a bank or appraiser sounds pleasantly surprised to find out that we don’t charge for “zoning letters”. Do some municipalities do that? And are those communities which offer a full site plan review on existing sites to more accurately judge whether there is compliance with current ordinances?