Zoning laws play a major role in where you set up and conduct your business. Being aware of what is in force in your area will save you money and frustration.
To remain in good legal standing, your business must be in compliance with your local ordinances, so it pays to stay abreast of those that will impact your business.
Reasons Laws Exist
Zoning laws and ordinances do not exist just to bedevil your business plans. It may seem that way when you cannot operate out of your home or have your factory expansion plans halted.
Most ordinances are passed to keep neighborhoods livable and preserve property values. This is why you cannot build a commercial building on a piece of property zoned for residential use. For that matter, you may not be able to construct a home in a rural area if it is against the local agricultural zoning regulations.
To be proactive, find out what the current zoning laws are in the areas you are considering doing business. Modify your plans to fit the rules. Alternatively, hire a lawyer and attempt to get a change in local ordinances passed.
Zoning laws can have a significant impact on home-based businesses. Starting in your home is logical for many new businesses. You are small enough to not need separate offices and not paying rent reduces overhead substantially.
If all you need is the kitchen table or even a room in your house, you probably won’t have to worry. However, your local regulations may make it a difficult proposition if you are making products or want to sell to customers from your home.
On the other hand, if customers visit to conduct business or employees work out of your home, you may face problems. This is because it can affect:
- Parking in your neighborhood
- Traffic levels on local streets
- Noise levels
- Inviting strangers into the neighborhood
All of these may not be relevant to your business, but it is important to know what the laws are and to figure out ahead of time the impact they can have on your plans.
There are several categories of zoning regulations, including:
Each has a multitude of subcategories. This is what makes zoning laws so complicated for the small business owner to figure out. To be sure that you are in compliance, the help of a lawyer or real estate professional is invaluable.
Among the most common types of restrictions that local laws establish are:
- Building height
- Building size
- How close one building can be to another
- Types of facilities and permitted uses
- Where on a piece of property you can locate structures
For example, a retail store is covered by several zoning laws that limit how big the building is and how many parking spots it needs.
You can ask for a conditional-use permit if you work out of a structure not zoned for business. You obtain one by filing for a zoning variance or conditional use permit or even a zoning change.
This conditional use permit lets you operate your business for the time being in the location, even though the zoning does not permit it. You will have to pay a filing fee, which can cost several hundred or several thousand dollars, depending on the municipality.
Have a lawyer work with you and the governing locality to give yourself a chance to get the conditional use permit changed to something more permanent.
Staying in compliance with local ordinances and zoning regulations makes it possible to conduct business legally at the location you choose. If you are caught not following the regulations, you may be subject to a substantial fine. It is not worth the hassle. Work with a lawyer, find out what each area requires, and locate your business accordingly.