Guide To Starting A Business

11. What You Need to Know About Small Business Zoning Laws

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Running A Business

What You Need to Know About Small Business Zoning Laws

May 02, 2023 • 6 min read
Choosing a Business Location
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      Wherever you choose to operate your small business, it’s important to know and understand the zoning laws in your area. These ordinances or regulations control how you can use land. There are varying degrees of consequences if you fail to comply with zoning laws. In fact, you may even risk being unable to operate.

      Purpose of zoning laws and regulations.

      Zoning laws can affect businesses in a number of ways, but the goal is to help people and businesses work together within communities. Following are the ways zoning laws and regulations can affect your business.

      May restrict business operations in an area.

      Zoning laws may prohibit businesses from taking certain actions within specific areas. For example, a business may be restricted from making loud noises or allowing traffic in residential areas. These zoning laws are often designed to promote safety and encourage compatibility between businesses and residents in a community.

      May require permits and certificates.

      A municipality may enact zoning laws to require businesses to obtain permits that show they are complying with regulations. Permits are often necessary for building a structure or operating various types of businesses.

      Zoning may set standards for buildings.

      Many communities have a certain aesthetic that they maintain through zoning laws and regulations. They may require that structures must be specific sizes or have a special appearance. For example, a structure may be required to have ceilings that are a certain height or a specific number of windows per wall.

      Types of zoning for small businesses.

      It is important to be aware of zoning laws before you start a business. If you build your structure or fail to obtain necessary permits, you may be without the ability to continue operation. You may also be subject to fines and other penalties for violations of zoning regulations. 

      Some common types of zoning laws you should be aware of include: 

      • Commercial manufacturing requirements
      • Types of commercial entities allowed in an area
      • Health and safety regulations
      • Parking requirements
      • Signage requirements
      • Types of buildings that can be built
      • Size of buildings
      • Internal building requirements
      • Floor to area ratios (FARs)
      • Lighting, air, and open space needs
      • Accessibility requirements

      When you consult with an architect, contractor, or business lawyer, they can guide you through the zoning requirements for your area.

      How you can comply with small business zoning laws.

      You must not only know zoning laws within your area, but also understand how to keep your business in compliance with them. To ensure you comply with small business zoning regulations, consider the following steps: 

      1. Research zoning laws in your area. 
      2. Obtain necessary permits. 
      3. Comply with requirements of zoning regulations. 
      4. Stay up to date with changing zoning laws. 

      Let’s discuss each of these in more detail.

      Research what zoning your business is in.

      Many municipalities or counties have online zoning maps. This can help you determine which zone your desired business location is in. For example, if your building is in a “residential area,” then you may have to select another location or get a variance to operate your business in that location. Even if your building is in a commercial property area, you will have to ensure your specific type of business and building are permitted in that location. 

      Common zone types may include: 

      • Residential
      • Commercial
      • Industrial
      • Agricultural
      • Historical
      • Aesthetic

      It’s also important to note that a location may have more than one zoning designation to consider.

      Get necessary permits before you start your business.

      You will want to obtain the necessary permits for your small business before you actually start operation. If you wait, you may risk being cited for a violation of zoning regulations, which can result in a fine or other penalties. Permits may be necessary for building certain areas of a structure or remodeling as well.

      Comply with zoning regulations.

      Zoning regulations often address lot lines, parking, walkways, setbacks or distance from the street, number of windows, room sizes, and other issues. You must comply with all zoning regulations, or you will not pass an inspection. It’s best to work with a professional contractor to ensure your building meets all necessary requirements.

      Stay up to date with zoning laws.

      Zoning laws change. Sometimes older buildings are “grandfathered” in and don’t have to make changes. However, other times all buildings in an area must make updates. Continuous updates are common for issues like electrical or plumbing because of safety issues. When operating a business, part of your responsibility is to maintain knowledge about ongoing legal changes.

      A small business loan can help you maintain zoning compliance.

      If your small business is not in compliance with zoning regulations, then you should consider a small business loan with Lendio. Learn more about your options to get started.

      About the author
      Brandy Abalos

      Brandy Abalos is a licensed attorney, content strategist, and marketing consultant for small businesses. She uses SEO tools to develop strong digital content for audiences who are learning how to navigate complex topics in law and business. When she is not writing, she seeks adventures with her three children, partner, and two corgis in Ohio.

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