Frequently Asked Questions
Planning & Zoning Questions
What are zoning districts?
A zoning district is an area established by City Ordinance that allows only
compatible uses to be located within a specifically defined area, known as a
zoning district. These zoning districts are established to promote compatible
patterns of land use within the city limits. Zoning districts also establish
setbacks, impervious surface coverage, and provide a list of principal, accessory
and conditional uses allowed within the district. Zoning districts exist for
residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural uses. As part of the zoning
process, appropriate land uses for an area are identified based on such factors
as the intensity, density, height of a proposed project, surrounding land uses,
traffic impacts and access to a site, environmental concerns and overall compatibility.
What is a "Comprehensive Plan" or "Growth Management Plan"?
A comprehensive plan (also known as a growth management plan) is a written document
that provides a "blueprint" for growth and development of all land within the
prescribed area, such as a city or county. Comprehensive plans are required by
Florida Statutes to be written for every city and county in Florida. Each plan is
divided into chapters, known as "elements" which are subject areas such as land use,
traffic circulation, housing, solid waste, drainage, sanitary sewer, recreation, aquifer
recharge and more. All development occurring within the City is required by state and
local law to be compatible with the adopted comprehensive plan.
What is a Future Land Use Map?
The future land use map is a map that delineates areas into different categories such
as residential, industrial, commercial, agricultural, conservation, and recreation.
Only uses that are determined to fall within these broad designations are allowed
within the areas shown on the future land use map. Zoning districts, help implement
the future land use map by further categorizing the allowable uses. As an example,
an industrial use is prevented from encroaching on residential areas because the
industrial use must be located within an area shown as Industry on the land use map.
Where does the City get the legal authority to make plans and zone property?
Legal authority to make plans and zone property comes from Chapter 163.3164, Florida
Statutes, which require all jurisdictions in the State of Florida to prepare a
comprehensive plan in accordance with requirements of the chapter, and rules
promulgated by the Florida Department of Community Affairs.
A variance is a change or relaxation in the required standards of the code that will
not be contrary to the public interest, where, owing to special conditions, a literal
enforcement of the provisions of the code will result in unnecessary and undue hardship.
Variances are available only when special circumstances and conditions exist which
are peculiar to the land, structure or buildings which are not applicable to other
lands, structures or buildings in the same zoning district. This means that the
conditions or circumstances are not a result of the actions of the applicant, that
the granting of a variance will not provide special privilege to the applicant which
is not available to other properties in the district, that literally interpreting
the code would deprive the applicant of rights enjoyed by other property owners in
the area, the variance requested is the minimum required, and the granting of the
variance would be in harmony with the general intent and purpose of the code, without
being injurious or detrimental to the public welfare. Approval of a variance must meet
all the criteria listed above. For further information, please see Section 25-94,
City of Leesburg Code of Ordinances.
Setbacks are areas measured from the property line to a structure that provide a
minimum required amount of building separation. These separations are necessary
for easements, utility placement, emergency service access, light, air and sunshine.
Each zoning district has a minimum required setback to the front, side and rear
property lines, which is designed and set in keeping with the type and purpose of
the district. Information on specific setbacks for each zoning district is
available in Chapter 25, City of Leesburg, Code of Ordinances.
What does the term "grandfathered" mean?
Grandfathered is a layman's term for an existing-non conforming use or structure.
When a use or structure is in operation and a regulation changes to make that use
no longer legal, it is generally considered "existing-non conforming", or
"grandfathered". This means a new structure that does not meet the new code for
this district cannot be constructed, or a new use of this type that does not
meet the new code will not be permitted. However, as long as the existing use
or structure is not abandoned for a period of 6 months or more, or subjected to
destruction in excess of 50% of the property value, it may continue its current
operation. For more information on nonconforming uses, see Section 25-79, City
of Leesburg Code of Ordinances.
Annexation is the process of expanding the legal boundary of a municipality to
include land lying within another jurisdiction. Generally, this means annexing
from a county into a city. Annexation provides urban levels of service for fire,
police, water, sewer, electricity and other government services. Persons living
within annexed areas become citizens of the annexing municipality. Annexation is
a legal process with rules and procedures which are required by state and city
regulations, including public hearings and review/approval by the governing body
of the city. In the majority of cases, annexations are voluntary, meaning that
landowners must file an application for annexation with the city. This
application must be reviewed by city staff, and forwarded to the City
Commission for decision. More information on annexation is available in
Chapter 171, Florida Statues.
What is the process to appeal a zoning ruling?
An established process is available to persons that disagree with a zoning ruling
made by the City's Planning and Zoning staff. Appeals to decisions of the City's
Planning and Zoning Division may be made in accordance with the regulations set
for the in Section 25-92, City of Leesburg Code of Ordinances. Generally, these
rules state that an appeal must be made in writing within thirty (30) days, with
supporting facts and data presented to the Planning and Zoning Official. Such
information is then transmitted to the Board of Appeals for action, in accordance
with established meeting procedures.
My neighbor is trying to rezone his/her property. How can I have input in this process?
Citizens have the opportunity to speak about zoning related cases during a public
hearing, which is held before the Planning and Zoning Commission. A public hearing
is a meeting in which the general public has the opportunity to speak in support
or opposition to a proposed use or development. Many zoning processes must go
through a public hearing as a part of the legal process for approving or denying
a specific use on a piece of property. Public hearings are conducted on all
conditional use permits, planned unit developments, variances, rezoning, annexation
and comprehensive plan amendments. For most types of cases, a public notice is
required to be mailed to property owners of record within 200 feet of the location
of the case for the public hearing. These notices are also published in a newspaper
of general circulation, per state statute. During the hearing, the public is
provided the opportunity to comment on the cases on that meeting's agenda.
What census tract is this address in?
To find a census tract number, go to the Census website .
Select "American Fact Finder" from the list on the left. In the lower left corner,
under SEARCH, click on "street address". Fill in the address, city and select the
state (you can also fill in the zip code but it is not necessary) then click GO.
In the lower box, line 4 will contain the Census Tract Number; you will also get
the block group number, the block number, and the Congressional district. If this
street was put in AFTER the 2000 Census, the street won't be found.
When do I need to get a building permit?
A building permit is required in the City of Leesburg for all electrical,
mechanical, structural and plumbing work. Unless restricted by covenants or other
neighborhood restrictions, permits are not required for painting and floor covering work.
What does the building permit process include?
The general process includes the steps listed below.
- Building permit application
- Plan submittal
- Staff review
- Plan revision
- Staff review
- Permit Issue
- Certificate of Occupancy
What documents are required for residential projects?
The following documents are required when submitting construction plans on a residential project.
- 5 sets of plans, 2 sealed
- 2 sets of truss details
- 2 sets of Energy Calcs
- Contractor Information (License info on contractor and all subs)
- Site plan attached to all copies of plans
- Proof of ownership
A building permit application is filled out and reviewed by the Building Services staff. Staff
routes permits to all affected departments for review. Upon completion of any needed revisions
and approval, the applicant may proceed with the project.
What documents are required for commercial projects?
The following documents are required when submitting construction plans on a commercial project.
- 9 sets of plans, 2 sealed
- 2 sets of sealed truss details
- 2 sets of Energy Calcs
- 3 sets of Irrigation Plans
- Contractor Information License info on contractor and all subs
- Site plan attached to all copies of plans
- Proof of ownership
- Proof of ownership must be submitted with all projects
- Example (Copy of warranty deed, current tax record)
A building permit application is filled out by the applicant and reviewed by the Building
Services staff. Staff routes the application to all affected departments for review. Upon
completion of any needed revisions and permit approval, the applicant may proceed with the
project. For more information on building permits, inspections and plan review, contact the
Building Services Division at 352-728-9750.
Do I need a permit to erect a sign for my business?
All new signs require permits. Any work involving structural, electrical or mechanical
work on a sign requires a permit. No permit is required if only the face of the sign is
being replaced, and all other code requirements are met. There are several types of
signs allowed, including on-structure, freestanding, banner and temporary.
Do I need a permit to erect a fence on my property?
Yes, permits are required for the erection of fences on private property. Bring in a site
plan (which can be drawn in on a copy of the property survey), and fill out a building
permit application for processing. The fence must meet city codes for either commercial
or residential areas (depending on location). Generally, a fence in a residential
neighborhood cannot exceed six feet in height. Fencing in commercial areas cannot
exceed eight feet in height.