If you are thinking of purchasing property or leasing property to start a business, you are going to have to contend with commercial zoning laws. Zoning laws are put in place by the federal, state and local governments in your area to determine how a structure can be built and what types of businesses can operate in certain areas, or zones. What does that mean for you? If you plan to run your business from home, you may have difficulty depending on your local zoning laws. Meanwhile, if you have a certain type of business, zoning laws also affect where you can look for lot space to build or even types of property you are allowed to lease to operate your business. If you aren’t an expert, it’s best to speak with experts like LCI Realty’s team, but here are the 3 basic things you should know about commercial zoning laws before you start your business.

What’s Included In Commercial Zoning Laws

Zoning regulates land use and sets forth laws that determine the use of properties and structures in any given zone. There are zoning laws for land use within cities, as well as what’s allowed on owned property outside of any municipality. This means that even if you own one hundred acres in the country, there are still restrictions and guidelines for the residential and business uses of that property. Generally, zoning laws include the following:

  • Use type (Commercial zoning versus residential zoning)
  • Types of commercial enterprises allowed
  • Parking and signage requirements
  • Health and safety regulations
  • Types of buildings allowed, including their size and egress requirements
  • Floor to area ratios
  • Accessibility

Zoning laws can be complex and nuanced or they can be rather straightforward, depending upon the area and the regulators working in zoning.

How Commercial Zoning Laws Differ From Residential

Residential zoning and commercial zoning might share similarities and even overlap at times, but there is a lot more stringency in commercial zoning laws, especially within a city. Factors like parking, safety, hazard provisions, floor area ratio (FAR), disability access requirements, among other things, become much more important. Another difference for commercial real estate is that each zone might be structured for different things, such as multifamily commercial properties, retail zoning, industrial segmentation, or even agricultural use. It’s possible for some of these zones to intersect and for areas that might be majorly restricted in use, such as an industrial zone, it’s possible to obtain permits for commercial businesses.

What Zone Is Your Building In?

Even if you find the right property for your business, it might be zoned in such a way that it will complicate your deal and make it harder for you to do business. You can determine what type of zone your property is in with GIS Mapping software that exists in most counties across the U.S. and looking for Planning & Zoning, like you see here on the Maricopa County website. This map is intuitive, if you know how to read it, but it can be fairly complex.

Generally, you will find the following zones within any city or town:

  • Residential – In a residential zone, you must have a Home Occupation permit, or something similar based on your municipality, to run a business out of your home. In general, commercial buildings are not allowed in residential zones.
  • Commercial – In a commercial zone, you’re allowed to erect buildings to conduct business in. There might be subzones, depending on a business type.
  • Industrial – These zones can be used for businesses that have a higher noise level, waste, and hazards. Generally these are restricted areas for commercial and especially residential businesses.
  • Agricultural – Generally, these zones are used for farming and agricultural pursuits. These also usually have restrictions for other use and development.
  • Historical – Historical zones are generally districts of homes or buildings that are more than 50 years old. Businesses are allowed, but they must keep buildings intact and only certain changes can be made.

Always Get Expert Help With Commercial Zoning Laws

Zoning ordinances, and especially commercial zoning laws, can be fairly complex. Even experts need time to study and interface with a community zoning representative. If you’re starting a business or looking for new property for your business, you should contact a tenant representative to help you navigate commercial zoning laws. Let the team at LCI Realty help you find the best space and cut through the red tape. Contact our team now by calling 480-531-8919.