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What is zoning and why is it important?

If you are deciding on where to locate your business, or are considering expanding your business, it is important to understand what zoning laws are and how they make impact your decision. Local zoning laws may impact the purchase of a property for business or improvements a business owner wishes to make on an existing business structure.

In general, zoning laws are a way that communities and governments direct development of real estate. Areas that are commercially zoned do not permit residential structures and areas that are residentially zoned do not permit commercial structures. In addition, structures in industrial areas must conform to industrial uses and so on. Some areas may be mixed-use zoned and allow both general commercial and residential types of structures in certain circumstances. The intended use for the structure impacts whether it can be in a particular location.

Zoning regulations can also impact improvements a business may seek for its structure. For instance, the types and number of buildings allowed; the size and height or buildings; setbacks from the street; frontage of lots and lot area; off-street parking; and other detailed restrictions may all be part of land use and zoning regulations. Owners of a building may be able request a change in zoning or a variance from existing zoning requirements in certain circumstances so it is helpful to be knowledgeable concerning the process if you own a business and are selecting a location for your business or seeking to make changes to a structure.

Because of the significant impact zoning laws may have on the operation of a business and its ability to expand, alter or grow, it is important to thoroughly understand zoning regulations in advance. Likewise, a business in an existing structure should be knowledgeable about zoning regulations and possible options that may be available if a conflict arises.

Source: U.S. Small Business Administration, "Basic Zoning Laws," Accessed Dec. 31, 2014

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