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Zoning can impact businesses’ livelihood and communities’ well-being

12/9/2011 | Real Estate Blog

On this blog, we try to give our readers a sense of the types of issues that can come up in real estate law. We recently came across an article from a news source for the city of Lakewood, Ohio. The story dealt with issues of zoning, specifically in regard to restaurants and commercial properties. This particular issue is important, particularly in a time when business owners struggle to keep their operations afloat. Zoning often has a direct impact on the health of a business.

On Monday night, the Lakewood City Council considered a proposed ordinance to make changes to the zoning code with respect to restaurants in that city. The ordinance proposes to amend the zoning code to revise certain definitions connected to food service and restaurant operations.

According to councilman Tom Bullock, who introduced the ordinance, the zoning code is in need of updating in order to clarify the difference between food-service and restaurant operations. The current definitions apparently do not take into account changes in the restaurant business, such as fast-casual places like Panera Bread.

The proposed ordinance also seeks to reflect changes in the commercial property, particularly, the large number of foreclosures and vacancies. The present ordinance apparently doesn’t allow lawmakers to take action, manage or regulate businesses differently, so that the interaction between and impact of businesses on neighborhoods remains less than satisfactory.

Sources said the proposed ordinance would introduce specific sections to the code for fast-food restaurants, “automobile-centric” fast-food and carryout restaurants.

The proposal is still in its preliminary stages, and new zoning maps have not yet been contemplated. That issue has apparently been referred to the planning commission.

Lakewood director of planning and development Dru Siley has apparently not yet reviewed the proposal, but said it will probably appear on the first planning commission meeting for 2012.

These types of issues come up all the time in towns across the country. These types of conversations are happening in Philadelphia as well.

Source: Lakewood Patch, “City Eyes Changes to Restaurants in Zoning Code,” Colin McEwen, December 7, 2011.