What is Zoning and Why Does it Matter?

Zoning for Businesses: What It Is and Why It Matters

One of the most important parts of the small business process is deciding where you will be physically located. The location you choose will play an important role in your brand, business model, clientele and day-to-day operations. Before choosing a location, it’s important to familiarize yourself with zoning: a critical tool urban planners use to shape the real estate pattern of the city.

Zoning can seem a bit technical, but at its core, zoning is a set of rules about what kinds of buildings and operations can exist in certain parts of the city. It involves thinking about the various land uses in a community, how those uses relate to each other and how potential new uses fit into the overall identity and future growth of the city.

The rules about zoning are called zoning codes and these codes are placed on a zoning map of the city. You can see Garland’s current zoning map here. Consulting both the zoning map and corresponding codes will help you get a sense of how the land in a city is designated and what kinds of uses are permitted in certain parts of town. From this information, you can identify the parts of town where your business might be the best fit or help you determine that you’ll need to apply for a rezoning permit, a special exception to the code for your business.

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It’s important to think about zoning early on. Not only will it shape your business and your ability to secure a Certificate of Occupancy, but complying with the zoning codes will ensure your business is in good standing with the city from a regulatory standpoint. Failing to account for zoning from the start can prove to be an extremely costly mistake down the line. It’s also important to think about zoning early on as compliance may require you to navigate various procedures, prepare paperwork and pay certain fees, all of which can affect your business budget and timeline.

Here are three steps to ensure you properly account for zoning requirements as you plan for your business.

Step One

First, take the time to look at your city’s zoning code and map before you sign a lease. If you aren’t sure where to find your city’s code or map or how to interpret them, reach out to the Chamber staff…we’re happy to walk you through it and help you determine if your business plans fit within the code. If we don’t have all the answers, we’ll put you in touch with those who do!

Step Two

Second, if you think you’ll need a zoning change or variance, reach out to the planning department to inquire about that process and everything that’s required so you can prepare well in advance. It’s also a good idea to do your research on the rules for your area and to invest time in getting to know the community as your rezoning application may involve a community hearing component.

Step Three

Finally, be patient with the process. Complying with rules and regulations can feel exhausting, but taking the time to understand the rules, build relationships and go through necessary procedures will ensure your business is positioned to open without a glitch and be able to effectively service the community.

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