Anyone that works or invests in commercial real estate can tell you that zoning laws are a constant factor in the decision making process. Although they are both forms of commercial real estate, there are a number of differences between commercial or retail zoning laws and industrial zoning. Commercial investors that want to purchase land and develop might run into intense snags if the property is zoned for industrial use or if it’s near to industrial zoning. That’s why industrial properties tend to be in their own district. Likewise, any industrial investor will struggle if they intend to build or expand in an area that has zoning restrictions for retail or commercial use. Here are five ways in which commercial and industrial zoning differ.

Business Traffic

Commercial zoning laws and industrial zoning laws are often put in place to protect businesses and their customers. There are usually parking requirements that need to be met to accomodate all businesses and their patrons. Typically, commercial businesses can operate in whatever areas have been zoned for commercial use, with the exception of some regulated adult entertainment or gambling businesses. This might even include some businesses operating in or near industrial zoning, though this usually requires approval from a zoning committee. Conversely, there are not many commercial zones that can also be used by industrial buildings.


Noise is one of the many reasons why industrial zoning restrictions are so extensive. Manufacturing, fabricating and repair, among other industrial business, can be very loud. This noise can be disturbing to citizens and cause businesses to lose revenue. Zoning laws are partially put into place in order to insulate people from this excessive noise.

Environmental Concerns

Industrial zoning restrictions are also concerned with the environment and the effects that industrial business has on the local environment. Depending on the state of business, much of the environmental influence is regulated by industrial zoning. Pollution, erosion and effects on the water table are all monitored. Commercial zoning also has environmental restrictions, but none of them are as stringent as industrial zoning laws.

Setback Requirements

A setback is the distance between the property line and the area where building can take place. These setbacks are put in place to assure there is maneuverable space between buildings and from the roads in order to provide for things like utilities and drainage. These setbacks are often much closer to the roads for commercial buildings. Industrial zoning usually creates setbacks that are further back in order to account for the environmental and noise restrictions.

Lot Size

These restrictions for industrial zoning along with the type of business that’s being done usually requires a lot more land. Zoning laws are concerned with the amount of land it will take for production for most industrial tenants. Too much land cuts into future expansion needs while not enough runs the risk of harming the environment or creating an unpleasant time for residents and consumers.