When you rent, lease, or buy commercial property your business will be affected by the zoning laws associated with your property. Commercial zoning does not use a universal template that applies to all properties. Within your city or town, there might be a long list of specific zoning designations that your property has to follow to legally do business. For example, your municipality might require that your property be zoned for food preparation if you want to start a restaurant.
The most obvious piece of advice that any potential business owner can be given is to be sure to check with city hall to see if the zoning on the commercial property you are considering matches your business operations. But there are other things to consider before you sign the dotted line on a commercial property agreement.
Grandfather Clauses For Non-Conforming
You have spent days looking for the right location for your business that requires that your property be zoned to use a special medical waste dumpster. You finally find a property that has a medical waste dumpster on-site, and you think you have found your location. But you may want to check closer because that location could be grandfathered into a non-conforming clause that expires when the business shuts down.
That medical dumpster may be legal for the current occupant because that occupant was doing business in that location before the zoning laws regarding medical waste dumpsters were changed. The municipality allowed that business to keep its dumpster, but future tenants in that location will have to follow the current zoning laws that make the dumpster illegal.
Watch For Variances
A zoning law can be changed by a variance, but that variance only applies to the business that requested it. You might see a business in a commercial location using business operations similar to yours and think that those operations are allowed. But if there is a variance in place, then the variance expires when the current occupant leaves and you would need to get your own variance to do business in that particular location.
Be Wary Of Conditional Use
The zoning laws for a property you are considering may allow you to use your business operations on that property, but there might be a condition involved. For example, you can sell food in your bookstore based on the current zoning laws, but you might need to add extra parking spaces for your business operations to be legal.
Parking Can Be An Issue
One constant that runs through most zoning laws throughout the country is the need for adequate parking. If you are going to change the use of a commercial property, then you may need to submit a parking plan to accommodate the new parking regulations that go along with your change. One specific parking area to watch for is handicap parking, as this can change based on your intended use for a property.
Before you can put your business into a commercial property, you have to be sure that your business operations are allowed by the zoning laws in that area. Remember that zoning regulations can change from property to property, so do your due diligence and get all of the zoning facts before you sign your commercial property lease or sales agreement.