It is not always possible to find a commercial property zoned for a particular use. Commercial zoning laws determine factors like the acceptable business activities in the area and setback requirements, as well as building heights, sizes, and proximities to each other.
When a commercial use violates zoning laws, it's not always the end of the story, however. There are several options for receiving approval for the business use, even though it may not agree with the commercial zoning laws in the area.
Strong support from the business community may help win over zoning and planning departments. If others can advocate the potential benefit to the community of a particular business, it may be easier to generate backing for the business. The possibility of a full-sized grocery store opening in a location not zoned for the use, for instance, may generate support from the business community if it is likely to generate jobs or stimulate the economy in a city. Seek support from trade associations, the chamber of commerce, and a business development office in the community. It may also be helpful to contact an experienced lawyer in the area to advocate on behalf of the business.
If a zoning ordinance prohibits a use, it is possible to receive relief from the board of zoning adjustment or the board of appeals. Zoning boards typically create zoning laws, regulate zoning, conduct land use hearings and grant conditional use permits and variances for nonconforming uses. Every locality is different, but the board will usually hold a public hearing to determine if it should alter zoning laws or grant a variance. The business will have the opportunity to argue their side and members of the public can voice their opinions as well.
If it is impossible to reach an agreement with the zoning board, the business may be able to appeal the decision in court. Going to court, however, is expensive and time-consuming. In fact, it can take several years to receive a court ruling, and there's no guarantee that the court will decide in your favor.
In some instances, a court may rule quickly on the matter if it only involves ordering a zoning official to carry out a ministerial duty. For example, if a business has complied with all requirements but the official refuses to grant approval, the court may order the government agency to take a particular action.
Need Legal Help with your Zoning Issue?
If zoning issues are plaguing your new business, consider getting professional legal help. Before deciding whether to pursue the issue in court, consult with an experienced business and commercial attorney. An attorney can advise you whether it may cost more to litigate the case than is worth it for you.