When looking for a location for your business, you probably considered factors such as ease of access, traffic flow and building size. Before you fall in love with a location, though, find out whether the city has zoned it for the type of business you have.
Each city typically has its own unique zoning ordinances, although they may have many things in common.
According to the Zoning Ordinance of Brentwood, Tennessee, the purpose of zoning laws is to protect the safety and welfare of the community in the following ways:
- Lessen traffic congestion and facilitate adequate transportation
- Prevent overcrowding and avoid population concentrations
- Provide light and air
- Facilitate schools and parks
- Provide water and sewerage
- Conserve building and property values
The zoning rules seek to preserve each district’s character and encourage residents and businesses to make the most appropriate use of the land inside the city limits.
You cannot assume that because the previous owner of a building used it for a purpose, that you will be able to, as well. The zoning laws note that some land uses and structures were already in place before the city created some of the restrictions. So, although the law allows that to continue, it does not permit the owner to enlarge or expand current structures or build new structures. A new owner would not have permission to continue the building’s nonconforming use.
Most municipalities allow business owners to seek a variance or a special exception or request an administrative review from the city’s board of commissioners or other board. If you can uncover all the restrictions on a property before you make the purchase, though, you may be able to avoid the hassle and uncertainty.