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Understanding The Distinction Between Land Use and Zoning

“Land use” and “zoning” each have different meanings and independent legal significance.  Land use is determined by a city or county’s comprehensive plan, which governs the future use of property within the boundaries of the city or unincorporated county.  Zoning, on the other hand, represents the current permissible uses of specific properties within a given city or county.  In Florida, zoning must not be inconsistent with land use designations.  Sometimes, zoning districts are not compatible with an owner’s intended use of his property.  In such cases, an amendment or variance may be the best option; or it may not be appropriate and may even conflict with the land use designation in the comprehensive plan.  In the event of  conflict, a land use amendment would be required; however, seeking a land use amendment is more likely to invite challenge from citizens.  For this reason, the process of amending zoning is often less fraught with conflict than amending land use.

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