Zoning and Your Business Location

Zoning and Your Home Business

Zoning and Zoning Types
Zoning and Zoning Types. Dieter Spannknebel/Getty Images

What is Zoning? 

Zoning is the process of planning for land use by a locality to allocate certain kinds of structures in certain areas. Zoning also includes restrictions in different zoning areas, such as height of buildings, use of green space, density (number of structures in a certain area), use of lots, and types of businesses.

Zoning codes and permits regulate land use, protect property values, and remove incompatible uses from residential areas.

 

Zoning Types

As you look for business locations, keep in mind the different types of zoning you may encounter. Knowing how a property is zoned can help you avoid problems and give you information to help you seek changes.

First, note that within each type of zoning there are sub-categories. In Residential zoning, for example, you might find different zoning codes for single-family dwellings, four-plexes, or larger apartment complexes. The designations for these subcategories vary by community.

Here are the major types of zoning in the U.S.:

  • Residential
    Residential zoning is for individual family units or groups. It includes single-family homes, duplexes, condominiums, trailer parks, and apartments. If the building you want to use for your business is zoned "residential" you will need to get a variance to use the property for business purposes.
  • Commercial
    Commercial property includes almost everything that is not residential, from offices to retail stores, to shopping malls and strip malls, to bars and nightclubs. Most professional offices are zoned commercial.
  • Industrial
    Industrial zoning is for manufacturing and warehousing operations.
  • Historic
    Historic zoning is used for buildings are areas that have historic value. Many of these properties are designated as "historic landmarks" by the National Register of Historic Places. If you want to use one of these properties for a business, you will have to adhere to the requirements for changing and using these properties.
  • Agricultural and Rural
    These two zoning types regulate land used for farms and ranches, limiting the non-farm use.

Zoning and a Home Business

Home based businesses need to be aware of zoning requirements for the specific locality. In some cases, depending on your business type, you may not be able to locate your business in your home. For example, if you have a business that has customers coming to your home, that may not be allowed by the city or town. 

Before you locate your business in your home, check the zoning requirements of your location. You may need to get a variance to allow you to operate your business from home. 

How to Get a Zoning Permit or Variance

Before you locate a business anywhere, including your home, check with your city or town to see if you will need a zoning permit or variance. The process usually involves filing an application, having it reviewed by a local board, and sometimes taken before city or town council. The process for a home business may also involve polling current residents to get their approval.

 

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