Do the Due or Sing the Blues
I know it’s not easy, but you’ve got to put your emotions on hold. Before you buy your dream property, you have to conduct a study that considers the physical, financial, legal, and social characteristics of the property. In the real estate business, we call this “due diligence.” My specialty is looking at due diligence from a land use perspective.
I believe that all real estate transactions – industrial, commercial, agricultural, and residential – unavoidably induce discussions and consideration of property rights and land use controls.
You and your Realtor need to examine the ownership rights that come with your dream property. Do you have rights to your neighboring properties as a result of encroachments, appurtenances, and rights-of-way? Are there party wall agreements, covenants, and deed restrictions? Is your property subject to negative and/or affirmative easements?
You need to consider the private land use controls such as water rights, ditch easements, nuisances, and voluntary restrictions in the form of covenants, deed restrictions, or conservation easements. A private nuisance is any act that interferes with another property owner’s rights. In addition, unreasonable harm must be caused by the action.
Covenants or CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions) control the uses and activities in most of Loveland’s residential subdivisions as well as aggregated commercial and industrial properties.
You also need to consider the most common public land use controls: zoning, subdivision regulations, and master plans. As the major land owner in the U.S., our government administers the public land use controls. We expect our governments to be fiscally responsible and plan for capital improvements and infrastructure. In turn, our governments want us citizens to help them in the planning process. In Loveland, the primary product of the planning process is our comprehensive plan. Our plan describes the current community characteristics and looks at what size and shape the community will resemble in 10 to 20 years. On the City of Loveland’s Community and Strategic Planning home page (www.cityofloveland.org), you can click on the 2005 Comprehensive Plan as well as click on the 2007 Land Use Plan map. The map will show how the areas around your dream property that either have developed or will probably develop.
After perusing the master plan and land use map, your next task should be to examine the zoning code. The text and zoning map determines the current uses, height, bulk, and density parameters. The zoning code details the permitted principal and accessory uses, conditional uses, and use exceptions that are allowed in the zoning district. On the City of Loveland’s Current Planning home page, you will be able to access the zoning code and learn about your zoning designation. What does the zoning code tell you about your dream property?
In general, the City of Loveland’s web site provides a fantastic amount of information about individual properties. On the left side of the City’s home page, you will find a list of quick links. Click on “Property Info” and insert an address. You can then create a report which includes any special reviews or variance approvals, a plat map, the zoning, the legal description, your city councilors, and even your voting precinct.
When you visit the Civic Center to discuss utilities, you can also visit the Building Department and get a history of building permits for the property’s address. The City of Loveland considers building plans, building permits, and certificates of occupancy to be public documents.
Now that you have copies of the approval documents, covenants and building permits as well as the zoning designation and master plan information, you need to compare the current use and structures with your collected information. Are there differences in uses, building masses, allowed animals, or well water usage?
When you need additional assistance, the staff at Current Planning is very helpful. I believe that Larimer County’s Planning Department still offers zoning compliance letters at a nominal cost. In addition, some attorneys who specialize in real estate will produce an opinion letter detailing a land use profile for your dream property.
Even though land use controls are not readily visible, they are very real, affect value, and your enjoyment of the property. Now you can dream on.