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Real Estate And Zoning Laws For Businesses

“Location, location, location” is the famous real estate phrase. You may find an excellent place for your business, but state and local real estate and zoning laws and regulations may put it out of reach. Our friends at Focus Law LA will tell you that legal requirements and limitations must factor into your search for a new business location and can impact changes to your current one.

What Laws Might Affect My Business’ Land Use?

Federal, state, and local laws, regulations, or ordinances may be at play. They vary from state to state and town to town. Depending on where you are and what you want to do, there may be pages and pages of regulations and rules to cope with.

Some of them are:

  1. Zoning laws: They dictate how property can be used in residential, commercial, industrial, or agricultural zones. There can be restrictions on building heights, lot sizes, and the types of structures allowed

  2. Land use laws: These laws govern the use of land and can cover sustainable development, conservation, environmental and wetlands protections

  3. Building codes: They set standards for construction and maintenance to ensure a building’s safety and structural integrity. These codes often cover materials, plumbing, electrical systems, and fire safety

These laws can be highly technical and involve local boards and agencies. Working with them cooperatively while planning your project may save you substantial time, energy, and cost compared to insisting you do things your way and battling it out in court if you’re told you cannot.

What Are Zoning Laws?

State laws spell out what local zoning boards can do. Local zoning ordinances and regulations govern how land and properties can be used within a specific area. A town or city can be divided into different zones or districts. Each may allow particular land uses, such as residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, recreational, or a mix. Zoning laws guide and control land development and promote public welfare, safety, and order. 

Key elements include:

  1. Zoning districts: Areas are classified into districts based on the predominant land use in that area. Common zoning districts include residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, and mixed-use.

  2. Land use regulations: They cover the types of activities and structures allowed in a district. Residential zones may permit only single-family homes, while commercial zones allow for businesses and retail establishments

  3. Density and setback requirements: Zoning laws often include regulations regarding development density (number of units per acre) and setback requirements (distance between structures and property lines)

  4. Height restrictions: Zoning laws may restrict the height of buildings or structures to ensure compatibility with the surrounding area and to preserve sunlight and views

  5. Parking and open space requirements: You may need to have a certain number of parking spaces, given the size of the building. You might also have to set aside open space or green areas as part of the property

  6. Conditional use permits: You may obtain a conditional use permit, which allows only listed uses in your location under specific conditions

If what you want to do doesn’t comply with zoning rules or regulations, you can seek an exception or variance. There may be a zoning board of appeals if decisions don’t go your way, and you may be able to challenge zoning decisions in court.

Local government also enforces zoning laws. You may be cited, fined, and ordered to comply with these rules if you violate them.

How Will This Impact My Business?

Given what you want to do, all these laws, ordinances, rules, and regulations may severely limit your options and increase your costs. You may find an experienced commercial or industrial real estate broker very helpful. If you need legal representation, retaining a real estate litigation lawyer with experience in these matters is wise as these areas of law are very specialized.


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