How Zoning & Development Laws Can Affect Your Business

On behalf of Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein, P.C. posted in on Nov 2, 2016.

Whether your business is expanding, adapting to changing markets, or starting-up, the myriad of zoning and development regulations can affect your plans. Considering these regulations in the business planning process can be critical to avoiding problems and delays. This article provides a general overview of the regulatory scheme.

Almost every municipality has its own set of ordinances regulating the use and development of land and buildings. In general terms, these include zoning and subdivision and land development (“SALDO”) ordinances.

A zoning ordinance regulates use of land and buildings while a SALDO regulates development and subdivision of land. Zoning ordinances include a map depicting the zoning districts throughout the municipality, and regulations for each district. If a new, changed, or expanded use is not “permitted by right”, the use may require approval following a public hearing. The hearing and approval process can be lengthy and complex.

Zoning ordinances also contain dimensional requirements such as lot size, setbacks, height, and building and impervious coverage limits. Zoning ordinances have grown more complex and include a host of other regulations. For example, general regulations must be considered. These may include regulations on signage, parking, loading, storage, lighting, noise, and landscaping. In addition to the base zoning shown on the map, the use of zoning overlays is now prevalent. These overlays often include historic districts, economic development zones, and environmental overlays such as floodplain, steep slope, and tree protection areas.

SALDO regulations come into play when “land development” is occurring. Land development includes changes to the land such as construction of new buildings or additions, and new parking areas or other facilities. SALDO regulations contain engineering requirements and typically govern matters such as street, lot, sewer, stormwater, utility, landscaping design and the process for review and approval of land development plans. That process can be lengthy and typically involves review by the municipal engineer, and staff members, and public review by the planning commission and approval by the elected officials.

Given the complexity and time involved in the zoning and development regulatory process it is important to consider and implement a game plan to successfully obtain the approvals necessary for your business to thrive.