Top 10 Questions to ask before purchasing your commercial property (Part 2: Zoning)

Zoning Information: These restrictions have direct implications on where you can and cannot build, what your building will look like, and how much it will cost. To obtain this information, contact the local city or county government that has jurisdiction over the site. 1. Does the current zone match up with the building’s use? If zoning policy designates the site for a purpose that does not align with your proposed building’s purpose, you won’t be able to build there. 2. Are there aesthetic or material requirements? Building in certain areas may require the use of a certain material or external design, which could also have substantial implications on cost and functionality. In a downtown area, for example, design regulations often require a building’s exterior to be brick. 3. Are there any landscaping requirements? Often, in order to construct a building on a piece of property, landscaping work must be done on a certain proportion of it. Landscaping requirements can have profound repercussions on the amount of space left available for parking and the building itself. Some examples of landscaping policies are quotas on the number of trees and plants, financial penalties for cutting down trees, and buffer mandates, which necessitate the planting of trees or shrubbery in between zones. 4. Are there any environmental regulations that could interfere with building here? It is important to make sure federal or state laws do not prohibit development of the site. If it is located on a protected wetland or is the habitat for an endangered species, for example, it will be impossible to build on the site. 5. Are there size and height restrictions? If regulations prevent buildings under or over a certain size, you might be forced to alter the size of the proposed building or choose a new location. Meeting size and height restrictions could have major financial implications and marginalize functionality. 6. Are there signage requirements? Signage regulations sometimes mandate that a business’s signs can only be in certain locations and of a certain size. If there are strict signage guidelines, you may not be able to advertise your building as effectively as you would otherwise. This could impact your ability to draw in customers and deter from the maximization of the building’s functionality. 7. Is there a “setback” policy? Zoning codes sometimes include rules regarding how far away from the street a building has to be. These rules may not be present in a sprawling downtown area, but they could be very significant in other areas of town. 8. Are there any traffic or parking regulations? Typically, zoning rules will place limits on the number of vehicles that can park on the street and minimums on the amount of parking spaces that a business must provide on its property. 9. Are there any known easements, or permanent designations of property, which interfere with building on a site? If the city or county has designated land to a specific purpose, such as electric lines or other infrastructural entities, it could hinder or prevent construction on a site. 10. What are the requirements for stormwater treatment? Federal, state, and local regulations usually require the creation of detainment ponds that hold back water temporarily to prevent erosion. This can often take up a substantial chunk of land and limit building space.

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