Whether you are a business owner building looking for land to build from the ground up or seeking to relocate your business to a new location, you need to be familiar with the zoning laws in your area.

Zoning laws – also known as zoning ordinances – were set to determine what types of land use is allowed for any given area.

Understanding Your Zone

First things first: you need to start by understanding how zoning works and the building zones in which you are planning to develop your project. Many cities have online GIS mapping systems that you can access by looking up “Zoning for (city name)” in Google. Once you have your zoning designation for the land you are interested in, check out if you comply with all the requirements needed.

Types of Zoning

Residential Zoning

Residential zones are areas designated for houses, apartments, duplexes, trailer parks, co-ops, and condominiums. Residential zoning deals with issues such as whether mobile homes can be placed on the property and the number of structures allowed on a particular property.

Zoning laws on home-based businesses depend on the essence of the business, the hours of operation, parking and delivery concerns, and noise issues. Some zoning ordinances do not allow in-home businesses in residential areas at all, while others restrict the type of business and business hours and may require separate parking and entrance facilities. For condominiums, rules regarding home-based businesses are typically even more restrictive than private residences.

Commercial Zoning

From office buildings, shopping centers, and hotels, to vacant land with the potential for development, any structure designated for business use should be within a commercial zone. Commercial zoning usually has several categories and is dependant upon the business use of the property, and often the number of business patrons.

The availability of parking may influence the type of commercial zoning that is authorized. Additionally, there can be rules regarding the proximity of specific types of businesses to others. For instance, adult entertainment establishments are restricted to a certain geographical area or to a specified range from schools or churches.

Industrial Zoning

It often depends on the amount of area covered and building height. Noise and waste are also environmental factors used to determine which industrial level a property or business falls into. Some common buildings in industrial zones include storage facilities, plants, and even airports. There are often subtypes of commercial zones, such as office building or retail.

Agricultural Zoning

It is commonly employed by communities that are concerned about preserving the economic viability of their business. Agricultural zoning restricts the density of development, by setting a minimum size for the area, and curbs non-farm uses of the land.

Agricultural zoning guards farming communities from becoming fragmented by residential development. In many states, agricultural zoning has incentive and subsidy programs and plans that provide additional tax reductions.

Historic Zoning

All homes and buildings over fifty years old are added into historical zones. There are controls that limit the alteration of the structures from its original conditions. Only specific changes, renovations, and restorations can be made to structures in designated historical zones. Generally, buildings in these areas can qualify for governmental tax incentives.

Aesthetic Zoning

Increasingly popular in upscale communities, aesthetic zoning covers color schemes, landscaping, mailboxes, fences, solar panels, decks, satellite dishes, and types of construction materials used in the area. Aesthetic zoning laws may require that building plans be submitted and approved by an architectural review committee.

Talk to an Expert

If you have additional questions about zoning laws, talk to one of our owner’s representatives about permit implications. Not asking questions upfront will lead to more headaches, wasted time, and unnecessary spending down the road.