The ABC’s of Zoning Law

Before purchasing a building or piece of land, especially if you’re planning to use it for your business, it’s important to figure out how it’s zoned.  Zoning is the process of planning for land use and allowing certain structures/building uses in specific locations.  Usually it’s controlled locally with committees in place at the state, county, city, and town levels.  While it’s possible to re-zone real estate in some situations, it’s not always a simple matter, so you’ll want to understand as much as you can about zoning codes and permits before you begin.

The A’s

We’ll start from the beginning with Aesthetic Zoning.  This type is most popular in higher-end neighborhoods and can restrict a number of visual aspects associated with a property.  Anything from paint colors to landscaping to materials can be controlled by this zoning ordinance.  In some cases, you may even have to submit any architectural plans to the committee.  They can also limit the use of wireless devices and solar panels.

Agricultural Zoning is designed for a very different setting.  It’s actually made to protect local farming communities by restricting the use of land for non-agricultural purposes.  Usually they do this by limiting the size of lots, or the amount of real estate development that can occur in a certain geographical area.  Because many farmers rely on federal subsidies to help fund their businesses, as well as tax advantages, this type of zoning plays an integral role in the viability of this part of our economy.

The C’s

Yes, we know we skipped B.  While there are many different forms of zoning, fortunately, there’s not one for each letter of the alphabet.  C, in this case, is for Commercial Zoning.  This governs a wide range of businesses and includes many subcategories to suit them.  For example, office buildings are regulated differently from restaurants, even though they’re both commercial properties.  This allows communities to prevent certain types of business within a specific radius.  It also plays a big role when it comes to parking, so even if you’re just purchasing a vacant lot, it’s important to start the zoning process sooner rather than later.

There’s also Combination Zoning, which allows multiple categories for a single property.  It’s often applied for mixed-use developments, and allows zoning to customize designations for their specific purposes.

The H’s

Historic Zoning is designed for buildings typically more than 50 years old.  It attempts to preserve the integrity of the original structure by restricting changes that can be made.  While some allowances for repairs and updates are unavoidable, it attempts to preserve important pieces of community history.  Frequently, places that meet the requirements for this type of zoning also qualify for tax credits to offset the additional cost of maintenance.  You can view which properties meet this classification on the National Register of Historic Places, which is a subsidiary of the National Park Service.

The I’s

Industrial Zoning is similar to Commercial Zoning because it can be narrowed down for the specific industry in question. Typically, warehouses and manufacturing plants receive their own industry designations to help address environment concerns.  Pollution, noise levels, lot size and height can all determine into which category a business falls, along with what regulations are in place.

The R’s

Residential Zoning is the type most people will have to deal with at some point in their lives.  This extends to single family homes, apartments, duplexes, condominiums, trailer parks, and more.  They regulate how many dwellings and/or structures can be on a certain property, what animals can reside there, and home-based businesses.  If you want to operate a business from your residence, you’ll likely have to apply for a variance first, although certain types of multifamily homesteads prohibit such practices outright.

If you need help interpreting and navigating your applicable zoning code(s), we can help.  At The Law Offices of Kirk Halpin & Associates, P.A., we help with the planning, permitting, rezoning, and other issues that can accompany the various types of properties we’ve just discussed.  Let our attorneys handle the due diligence before you even acquire the property, as well as act as your advocates each step along the way.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 12th, 2018 at 11:09 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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