In a zoning plan, the municipality designates places where a business may be established. The zoning plan also states exactly which business activities are permitted. It is not uncommon for a zoning plan not to exactly match your business plan or the growth of your business if you are already established at a certain business location.
If the business plan does not or no longer fits in with the zoning plan, you will need an amendment to or deviation from the zoning plan. Depending on the situation, an environmental permit procedure or a zoning plan procedure must be followed. Different procedure variants apply.
The implementation of your plan almost always begins with a preliminary consultation with the municipality. During these preliminary consultations, you will discuss your plans and the question of whether the municipal authority will cooperate in deviating from the zoning plan or drawing up a new zoning plan for your company.
The municipal council has its own wide-ranging powers to decide whether or not to cooperate with your plans. The most important substantive goal of the preliminary consultation is to examine the extent to which your plan fits into the existing environment and whether the municipal authority wishes to allow your plan in this existing environment and will therefore be willing to cooperate with a positive amendment to or deviation from the zoning plan. If this is successful, working arrangements will be made in connection with the preparation of an amendment to or deviation from the zoning plan by means of an environmental permit. This may also involve obtaining political support for your plan from the Municipal Executive and/or the municipal council and organising a form of participation for surrounding businesses and local residents.
During the preliminary consultations, legal substantive topics are quickly raised and it is important to be well prepared. In practice, it is often the case that legal problems arise in a later phase because of insufficient legal preparation at the start of the zoning plan procedure.
The preliminary consultation is usually done by the initiator himself in the first instance, together with the architect who has sketched or drawn a building plan. If things become difficult during the pre-consultation, legal assistance is helpful and also customary to get to the legal heart of the problem quickly.
If this involves the preparation of a zoning plan for your business, then specialist consultancies will write an amendment to the existing zoning plan or draw up a spatial substantiation for the application for an environmental permit for your building plan, which requires deviation from the zoning plan. You yourself are responsible for these preparations.
During the preparation of the zoning plan or the environmental permit with deviation, depending on the situation, technical advisors must be hired and directed for specific studies into the effects of your plan on the environment. These could include noise aspects, traffic and parking, the effects on nature and landscape and/or air quality calculations.
Depending on the complexity of the substantive plan, there is all kinds of contact and cooperation with municipal officials and direction must be taken. These contacts concern the applicability of laws and regulations in your case, what can and cannot be permitted, the justification and assessment of spatial and environmental effects. Of course, the municipality is ultimately responsible for formulating the justification for decisions, rules and regulations and for responding to third-party participation.
If your plan is made available for inspection, opinions can be submitted against a draft zoning plan, and declarations of intent or objections against the (draft) environmental permit. It will then have to be thoroughly examined how to respond, and what to do with the input of others, in terms of both content and legal issues. In this phase, direction is often needed between you as initiator, municipal officials and technical advisors.
It is wise to find out whether objections and obstacles can be removed by entering into consultation with the person submitting the view. Once a zoning amendment has been adopted or an environmental permit has been granted that deviates from the zoning plan, others can start objection or appeal proceedings with the court or Administrative Law Division of the Council of State.
As a company, you may also be confronted as an interested third party with business initiatives or new housing developments in the immediate vicinity of your company, which may involve risks to your existing business or restrictions on future business activities. In that case it can be important to take action by building up contact with the initiator and, if necessary, to make use of procedural participation and legal protection possibilities.
HABITAT supports companies in the zoning procedure from a legal and political perspective and in initiating the necessary permission(s) with the municipality. We do this in a professional manner, with respect for everyone's responsibilities and interests. If discussions arise with the municipality about whether or not to allow business activities, HABITAT helps to design appropriate solutions from the legal content. In complex cases, HABITAT directs your efforts to create a smooth interaction between you as a company, consultancies and municipality (lawyer). HABITAT also provides appropriate responses to notices of objection and appeal received and the hearing at the Objections Committee and the court.
HABITAT also conducts proceedings for your company in which your company is the plaintiff against the municipality, if unexpectedly during consultations with the municipality a difference of opinion has remained about the legalization of your initiative and the court can provide a legal solution.
If third parties use objection and appeal procedures with the municipality against your initiative, you can participate in these procedures in order to have your vision taken into account. If required, HABITAT will examine to what extent experienced pain points with third parties can be removed and negotiates with them. If this contact is successful, a settlement agreement will be drawn up.
If you as a company are concerned about an initiative of a third party, HABITAT will contact the initiator to see how your concerns can be resolved. If mutual consultation and coordination do not succeed, the zoning plan procedure or a licensing procedure may be used to stop the third-party initiative through the courts or to ensure a more favourable integration of this third-party initiative into your environment.