When it comes to zoning laws, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it could really be a chicken. Just because a building has previously been used for a commercial or industrial use does not mean your commercial use is automatically approved. The previous use may have been non-conforming (prior to the zoning code now enforced) or byway of variance. So, before purchasing any new building for your business, you should ask one very important question, “Is it zoned for my use?”
Zoning Laws and your New Building
It doesn’t matter if you are purchasing your new building or renting, you should make your agreement contingent on obtaining a zoning permit. And then investigate.
- Zoning Designation: First and foremost, check the zoning designation for your new building. Use this code to see what is and is not permitted at the location.
- City Planning Commission: It is always a good idea to check with the City Planning Commission. They will know the latest in terms of zoning legislation.
- Zoning Board: If you are planning any changes to your new building, have the plans reviewed by the Zoning Board.
- Additional Approvals: Make sure you do not need additional approvals from agencies other than the City Planning Commission, such as the Art Commission, Historical Commission, Water Department, or the Streets Department.
- City Certification: Be sure to ask for a City Certification from the seller. This document will provide the zoning designation and the legal use of the building, as well as any violations of the City Code.
- Legal Counsel: When in doubt, an experienced zoning and land use attorney can help you sort through the legal jargon and zoning laws to determine the approved uses of your new building.
If you have any questions about Zoning Laws, please contact Offit Kurman real estate attorney and chair of the firm’s Chair of the Real Estate Land Use and Zoning Practice Group William E. Erskine at 301.575.0363 or email@example.com. Mr. Erskine has extensive experience representing developers and business owners in land use and zoning matters, including subdivision and land development, re-zonings and legislative appeals. Bill currently serves as President-elect of the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) and is Legal Counsel and Ex-Officio of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce.
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