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Commercial zoning 101: What businesses need to know

On Behalf of | Jun 14, 2024 | Land Use & Zoning |

If you have a business, you need to be aware of the zoning laws. These laws are important because they affect your business in unexpected ways, such as when an area may not be ideal for your type of business when expanding or purchasing property.

What is commercial zoning?

Zoning generally refers to the laws by the municipality or local government that dictate the use of real estate property in certain geographic areas.

Commercial zoning laws control the activities that a business may conduct in a specific area, including the type of businesses that may occupy the zoned area. They may also create a sense of uniformity in commercial buildings, which can mean that facades and signage may have a similar or standard appearance.

What are the business restrictions and requirements?

Zoning may require control over commercial operations, including:

  • Noise levels and what restrictions apply before and after certain hours.
  • Parking and the number of parking spaces based on traffic.
  • Signage where there may be rules that limit the size and placement of signs and displays.
  • Facades where the external appearance of buildings within a certain area needs to be uniform.
  • Density & Development rules and restrictions applicable to the zoning and commercial development of the intended project.

Although they may seem restrictive, one of the goals of zoning is to create uniformly-designed neighborhoods, control patterns, and allow room for growth.

How can you avoid commercial zoning issues?

There are ways to avoid commercial zoning issues, which may include the following:

  • Investigating zoning laws prior to signing a lease.
  • Knowing if there was a previous nonconforming use.
  • Researching if the previous tenant had a variance or a special permit that allows the occupant to deviate from the usual zoning laws.
  • Checking if approvals depend on certain conditions.
  • Checking with the local recorder’s office for any documents of record pertaining to the property locations as well as the local municipality regarding any pending or anticipated development plans or potential assessments.

It pays to complete due diligence on the location that you choose for your business and consider all the implications that come with a potential property. Such action may help prevent future problems.