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Thread: Zoning applicant sold property during process?

  1. #1

    Zoning applicant sold property during process?

    We have a zoning case where the original applicant, who was the property owner at the time of application, sold the property after the case had gone to the Landmarks Commission (it's a historic overlay zoning case) but before it went to the Planning Commission or City Council.

    My question is: does the case continue to move forward through the normal process or once the property is sold does the case become moot (since the original applicant no longer has standing)?

  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    If the new owner signs off on the application, then it shouldn't be a problem. The former owner is not simply the applicant representing the new owner.

    I presume the sale of the property was the intent all along since the applicant/owner was proceeding with an entitlement process and the end result was to market the newly entitled property for sale.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  3. #3
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ok_planner View post
    We have a zoning case where the original applicant, who was the property owner at the time of application, sold the property after the case had gone to the Landmarks Commission (it's a historic overlay zoning case) but before it went to the Planning Commission or City Council.

    My question is: does the case continue to move forward through the normal process or once the property is sold does the case become moot (since the original applicant no longer has standing)?
    If he no longer owns the property, he no longer has the authority to apply for permits or legislative changes regarding that property unless he is authorized to act as the agent for the buyer. I would require an updated application prior to proceeding.

    From an unrelated legal perspective, I wonder if he disclosed this application in-process to the buyer.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  4. #4
    If he no longer owns the property, he no longer has the authority to apply for permits or legislative changes regarding that property unless he is authorized to act as the agent for the buyer. I would require an updated application prior to proceeding.
    In this case, based on the advice of the City Attorney we are simply getting written confirmation from the new owner that he supports the case moving forward.

    However, I guess I was thinking that once the application is filed (by the property owner at the time of application), a public legislative process is begun that must continue to conclusion regardless of change of ownership. What happens if there is a change of ownership that we are unaware of prior to City Council approval? Does the rezoning action become void, since the original applicant was not the owner at the time the legislative action was approved?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    If he no longer owns the property, he no longer has the authority to apply for permits or legislative changes regarding that property unless he is authorized to act as the agent for the buyer. I would require an updated application prior to proceeding.

    From an unrelated legal perspective, I wonder if he disclosed this application in-process to the buyer.
    Yes, exactly. If the applicant doesn't own the property, they no longer have standing, unless there is something specific in code that says it is OK. The lawyers can give their blessing, but as far as the actual detail of the case, since we don't know anything, if it were me if there were either a financial or fiduciary change I'd want more than just an OK from the new owner, I'd want to know who I can go after.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
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    Unless I'm mistaken, the application is a legal document. If the signature of the current property owner and/or his/her appointed designee is not on the application I would say that it's void and the process stops right there. I would ask for a new application with the new property owner's signature on it (not necessarily all new supporting documents or starting the process from scratch).

    There was another question about what if property owners change during the process and the City isn't told. I haven't run into that situation but I would, again, require that the new property owner sign a new application. If they won't and it can be shown that the property changed hands during the process I would lean towards voiding the shebang. What would the difference be, at a very simplistic level, between that and me filing an application for a rezoning or something on your property without your knowledge/approval?
    At times like this, you have to ask yourself, "WWJDD?"
    (What Would Jimmy Durante Do?)

  7. #7
    I guess I have always viewed the process differently. I have worked in cities where any citizen has the right to initiate a rezoning on any property (although this can be problematic). In most cities, the City itself, through staff, can initiate a rezoning, even against the property owner's wishes. Again, I have always viewed the process as being initiated by the applicant (whether that's the owner, another citizen, or the City), but that once initiated, it becomes a public legislative process that continues to completion per the procedures outlined in the ordinance.

    I don't really intend to make a big deal out of this, and as I said previously, we are pursuing the new owner to get his consent to move forward. But to say that we are somehow obligated to do so? I'm still not convinced. At the end of the day, in my opinion (as a non-lawyer) a rezoning is simply a legislative action by the City that does not require the consent of the current property owner (unless of course that is spelled out in the local zoning ordinance).

  8. #8
    One more thing, just FYI....
    In this case, the previous owner did inform the new owner and the new owner informed our staff that he was OK with it. However, our attorney preferred to have something in writing.

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