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Planning and Development - Division of Planning, Zoning and Land Use

Zoning FAQs

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What is zoning?

Zoning is a classification system which establishes regulations and requirements governing use, lot size, building size, yards, setbacks and other conditions of use. The word comes from the areas drawn on a map –known as zones– that designate specific sets of permitted uses.

What is the purpose of zoning?

The purpose of zoning is to prevent incompatible land uses from being sited too close to each other, such as a heavy industrial use next to a residential neighborhood. For all cases, the County considers, among other things, whether a proposed rezoning would be detrimental or injurious to the public health, safety, morals or general welfare of McHenry County. McHenry County has the right to administer zoning in its unincorporated parts through an extension of its police powers.

What is my property zoned?

To find out the zoning of a parcel in unincorporated McHenry County, go to the PlanDev Viewer

What does my zoning allow me to do?

The McHenry County Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) contains a table of “Zoning District Uses,” which references specific ways a property can be used based on its zoning. If you have a use in mind that is not specifically listed in the table, you may request the Zoning Enforcement Officer make a determination as to which zoning district the proposed use would be allowed in.

How do I change my property’s zoning?

In order to change your zoning, get a conditional use, or get a variation, you must submit a completed zoning petition application to the Department of Planning and Development. Once a submission is determined to be accurate and complete, a public hearing date will be assigned before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) or the McHenry County Hearing Officer (MCHO). Upon conclusion of the hearing, the hearing body will make a recommendation. That recommendation is then sent to the County Board (in the form of an ordinance) for a final vote. The process typically takes a minimum of three months. 

» Go to: How to file a zoning petition application.

Why does it take so long?

The total time to go through the zoning process varies by petition type, but most take three to four months from the submittal of a complete application. After a zoning petition application is received, it is researched and reviewed by Staff, which can take one to two weeks. The petitioner may be required to supply additional information based on Staff comments. Once all pertinent information has been received, Staff will prepare the petition and legal notices. Conditional use permit applications are scheduled for site plan review by the Staff Plat Review Committee. (The ZBA cannot vote on a CUP without a site plan approved by the committee.) Applications, including CUPs with approved site plans, are then assigned a hearing date. Because legal notice is required to be sent out at least 15 days prior to a hearing, dates are assigned more than two weeks out, and sometimes significantly longer, depending upon the number hearing dates already filled. Some hearings before the ZBA will not be voted upon on the day of the hearing, depending on the complexity of the request. These hearings will be continued to additional hearing dates as needed. In most cases a CUP will have a minimum of two hearing dates. After a vote is made and a recommendation is put forward by the ZBA or MCHO and a transcript of the hearing is prepared, an ordinance is forwarded to the next available County Board meeting, usually held on the third Tuesday of each month. County Board agenda scheduling requires zoning agenda items to be submitted at least 18 days prior to the County Board meeting. 

Can I rezone a property before I purchase it?

In some cases individuals are interested in buying a property, but only if can be rezoned for the new desired use. A request of this type is allowed with the cooperation of the owner. The buyer can handle all zoning matters (outside of owner signatures) as long as he or she is listed in the petition as the contract purchaser. Remember, not every seller will be interested in waiting several months without knowing if they will be able to sell their property.

How much will it cost?

The application fee is established by the Planning and Development Fee Schedule and varies based on: 
There are other costs outside of the petition fee that vary by petition. Costs include:

  • The type of application (i.e. rezoning, conditional use permit, or variation
  • The acreage included within the application
  • The number of conditional uses and variations requested
  • If the conditional use permit is a renewal, or not yet established
  • If the application is sought to correct an ongoing use or building violation
  • Sending legal notice to adjoining property owners and affected taxing districts by certified mail
  • Publishing of the legal notice in a newspaper: This will vary depending on the paper and the length of the notice.
  • NRI letter or report: The Soil and Water Conservation District determines if they will require a letter or a report. As of October 2008, a letter cost $100 and a report $400 or more.
  • Court reporting fees: Fees are based on number of hearings and number of pages transcribed. Invoices are issued by the court reporting service to the petitioner.
  • A plat of survey: showing current parcel dimensions and physical improvements created by a licensed land surveyor. (Prices vary based on surveyor, number of improvements, and size of parcel.)    
  • Attorney’s fees: Using an attorney is optional. Staff is available to assist petitioners with filing a petition, but time and resources are limited. Attorney’s fees vary greatly.
  • Specialist fees: Specialists are optional. Some hearings call for expert witnesses to testify in support of a petition. Examples can include a septic designer, engineer, planner, transportation engineer, etc.
  • Other: Other costs could come from things like the preparation of a soil survey or other reports, the production of pictures, charts and other exhibits, or fees from copying, notarizing, etc. 

Who presides over hearings?

Petitions that seek a change in zoning or a conditional use are heard by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Variations are heard by the McHenry County Hearing Officer. These bodies hear testimony and review evidence for and against a proposed change. At a hearing's conclusion, the hearing body makes a recommendation which may be “positive”, “negative”, or “no recommendation.”

Who ultimately decides if a property will be rezoned?

After a recommendation is made by the ZBA or MCHO, the County Board will vote on the proposed ordinance. In most cases, a simple majority of those present voting yes will pass the ordinance. In certain instances, an ordinance may need three-quarters of those present to vote yes for the ordinance to pass.

What are my chances of getting my zoning changed?

The likelihood of getting your zoning changed depends on dozens of variables. Primary consideration is given to a petitioner’s ability to effectively demonstrate that their request meets the standards outlined in the Unified Development Ordinance. Input from neighbors, townships, county departments, or nearby municipalities may be taken under consideration as well. In short, there are no guarantees and all fees must be paid before the final vote is taken.

Who is required to be notified of a hearing?

Notification by certified mail is required to be sent to adjoining property owners and interested official bodies. Additionally, a legal notice must be published in a newspaper and a sign must be conspicuously placed on the property along the principal road frontage.

When and where are hearings held?

All hearings are held on the second floor of the Administrative Building at the McHenry County Government Center. The address of the building is 667 Ware Road, Woodstock, IL 60098. Hearings are typically scheduled on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. for the ZBA. The MCHO hearings are held once a month, at various times of day. Check the calendar for the current schedule of petitions, times, and room numbers.

Who can attend and speak at a hearing?

Hearings are open to anyone who would like to attend. At designated points in the hearing, the chairman or hearing officer will call on the public to see if they have any questions of the petitioner (or witness). At another point, the public will be able to make statements for the record.


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