Most business owners have a general idea of what zoning and land use means. If they are looking to build and move into a new property, they know they need to check the local zoning and land use regulations. These ordinances provide guidelines on how land is used and help govern the rate of an area’s development. These ordinances apply to certain types of structures, their height, amount of green space, the density of structures in an area, and types of businesses allowed.
Zoning is generally done at the municipal level here in Pennsylvania, which ideally means that the laws will fulfill the needs and goals of the community. However, eight counties have zone ordinances.
Common types of zoning
Knowing how a property is zoned can help the buyer avoid problems, or provide a starting point if it seeks changes or a variance. Common zoning types include:
- Agricultural and rural
Restrictions businesses need to check for or change
Those buying land for a new building or moving a business may find the perfect location at the right price, but there are problems with the zoning. These can include:
- Land use plans: Municipalities use these and may have the land assigned for a specific purpose. There may be environmental guidelines for use as well.
- Building placement: Also known as setbacks, this dictates how far a building can be from the curb or property line.
- Signage: A community may have limitations on size and types of signs, which can be an issue of the business is a franchise.
- Building use: An old mansion may be the ideal home for an office, but this would not be allowed if it is zoned residential.
Getting a permit or variance
Zoning changes can dramatically increase the value of an owner’s land. It also can help change out-of-date regulations. However, changes to zoning can impact surrounding landowners, which can lead to disputes.
Those with questions regarding these issues often find it useful to consult with an attorney experienced in handling land use and zoning disputes. Sometimes the parties can resolve the issue before going to court, but litigation may be the only way to move the business and building plan forward.