Saturday, July 27th, 2019 July27th2019

Sell for More Trivia: What exactly is “zoning” anyway?

Published on July 27th, 2019

Sell for More Trivia is a weekly blog series that playfully presents a trivia question about commercial real estate.


Most participants in the commercial real estate business do not look favorably upon zoning laws.  Why?  First, they vary by municipality which is confusing.  For every municipality you must learn that municipality’s codes, definitions, rules and regulations.

Second, the permitted uses of the property are notoriously hard to find…usually hidden in a 100+ page document full of graphs with corresponding definitions to follow.  And good luck even finding that massive document on most municipality’s websites.

We’ve now established zoning information is difficult to find and understand.  But, what exactly is “zoning” anyway?

Zoning laws determine the types of structures one can build within specific areas, or “zones,” of a city. In some cases, they determine if existing structures may be replaced with something new at all.

Keep in mind, these zones aren’t usually named with real words…only codes are used for some antiquated reason.  CS, C, COM, B, BUS and a 100 different variations can essentially mean “commercial”, for example.

The stated purpose of these zoning laws is to protect the health and safety of communities while regulating the rate of growth within the community.  They regulate the types of building and construction that can take place in specific city zones. They also regulate the types of businesses that can be opened in specific zones.

Zoning not only helps to control the rate of growth in the city and the types of businesses and properties that come into particular areas of town, it also helps to ensure that there is sufficient infrastructure within the city to support the growth.

Zoning laws regulate different things in different communities. In some modern communities, zoning laws may regulate any or all of the following:

  • Off-street parking requirements for residential and commercial properties
  • Air quality restrictions
  • Noise levels
  • Locations of utility lines
  • Number of rooms in buildings
  • Waste management
  • Building appearance (height, square footage, facades, colors, etc.)
  • Business signage regulations (many areas regulate the types of signs you can use, placement of signs, appearance of signs, and even may regulate the use of foreign languages in signage)
  • Number of like businesses within the zone
  • Whether your business can install outdoor seating

You need to be aware of where your commercial property lies on the zoning map and what that means for businesses who may want to rent or buy from you.

In a perfect world, zoning laws exist to make life in cities better. They help to support certain living standards, to keep communities beautiful, and to ensure there are sufficient services to meet the current and growing needs of the people who live and work within the community.

While there are no such things as perfect zoning laws, and they can be enormous hassles for new businesses coming into these communities, the laws, by and large, do accomplish their goals of creating sustainable growth.


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About Beau Beach, CCIM

Beau is a tenacious Commercial Real Estate Broker, author and adoring father of four. His clients appreciate his no-nonsense demeanor and his legendary work ethic.

Beau leads Beachwood which is a commercial real estate broker for sellers in the Nashville, Milwaukee, South Florida and Chicago markets.

He’s the author of the books The 3 Reasons: Why Most Commercial Properties Don’t Sell and True Wealth: What Every Seller Should Know About 1031 Exchanges.

Beau can be reached at 800-721-3287, click to schedule a call or