Relocating a business can be a major undertaking, and your decision to do so involves many considerations. If you determine that relocation is an appropriate step for your business, you will want to carefully research your business’ next possible location. Zoning laws will be an important facet of this research because they determine the allowed uses of properties and control things like noise level, parking, air quality, signage and building requirements.
Before signing any contract, you should make sure you know how that property is zoned, and if its zoning code matches the needs for your business. Most businesses will need to be in either a commercial or industrial zoning district, both of which usually have several subcategories within them. Commercial zoning usually includes office buildings, shopping centers, hotels and some apartment complexes. Industrial zoning typically includes manufacturing plants and some storage facilities.
When the property use doesn’t match the zone
When researching the zoning codes for your new potential property, be aware that you may not be able to use the property for the same activity as the previous occupant, who may have had a non-conforming use or a variance. A non-conforming use typically happens when a new zoning law is formed that would affect a current use of the property. In that situation, the owner can continue that use until he or she leaves the property. A variance is an exception to a zoning regulation. You should not expect that a non-conforming use or variance will extend to you if you move in.
Although the easiest approach is to find a property that is already zoned compatibly to your business, you might be able to resolve a zoning issue by applying for your own variance or requesting a conditional use permit. A conditional use permit would allow you to use the property in an otherwise prohibited way if you fulfill a set of conditions. However, do not sign any contract before you know you will be allowed to operate your business there.
Relocation can be the next step in expanding your business or it can be the mistake that hinders its progress. That is why it is crucial to thoroughly research the pros and cons of each potential location, including the effect zoning restrictions will have on the business. Only when you have all the facts will you be able to make the best decision for your company’s future.