by Susan Lavery

A situation has come up recently in an area of Port St. Lucie where city officials will soon decide whether or not to approve an application to build a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

Many residents are protesting, but the fact remains that the property in question is properly zoned for its intended use. It is zoned “institutional,” which allows group homes that can accommodate the rehab aspect of the facility, as well as schools, day care centers, churches and health care facilities. There are, in fact, 40 privately owned, undeveloped parcels zoned institutional in St. Lucie County – a total of 146 acres. In Stuart and Martin County there are 25 parcels zoned institutional and about half of them are owned by churches or cemeteries.

There is a grace period at the beginning of the residential As Is Contract to Purchase published by the Florida Association of Realtors and the Florida Bar (abbreviated to FAR/BAR) that allows for inspections and other “due diligence” activities. The amount of time is negotiated between parties, but is rarely less than 5 days or more than 15. I heartily recommend that during this period, in addition to a thorough inspection of the building, buyers also take a look at the FEMA flood zone map and the zoning map which can be found at your local city’s or county’s planning and zoning department. This applies not just to homes near vacant land, but also to determine the permitted uses and densities of nearby built-up land as well. Sometime in the future the land can change hands and change use and density as well. Would it bother you or affect your property’s value if the lovely home next to you became an apartment building because it was zoned for high-density residential? Or the church down the block built a cemetery or became a day care center because it was zoned for institutional? Then do your due diligence! And ask plenty of questions of the Planning and Zoning personnel. They are the ones who can tell you just what the zoning designations mean and what types of structures or businesses they can accommodate.