When you start a company or move to a new location, there are many legal issues you must consider. Which commercial space is right for you? Are the lease terms favorable? Do you have the right licenses to operate in that neighborhood? One important consideration in selecting a new business location should be reviewing the zoning and development regulations in the area.
Governments enact and enforce zoning laws as part of public health and safety protections. For example, you would not want a waste management facility right by your house or a noisy factory right by a school or library. Some industries present hazards and zoning laws distance those hazards from residential areas. There are different types of zoning laws, including:
- Residential – Allows people to live in that area
- Commercial – Allows offices, stores, and other similar businesses
- Agricultural – Allows farming and related activities
- Industrial – Allows manufacturing and similar industries
- Recreational – Allows spaces for parks, sporting events, and other recreation
Some areas can have mixed-use zoning laws, so a house could be on the same block as a business. Other areas are strictly zoned for a single use, so you cannot have a house right between a strip mall and a restaurant, or a business in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
Zoning laws can also have specific regulations and restrictions within a particular zone regarding how the property may be used by a business, even within a commercial zone. These are called conditional use requirements and can include noise restrictions, environmental requirements, mandates for the size and proximity of the buildings, parking, and more. If you have business in a commercial zone but do not meet the parking requirements, you may be in violation of zoning laws. There also may be specific restrictions regarding company signage, such as limitations on the type and size of signage permitted.
Exceptions to zoning laws may help a business operate in a particular space without fully complying with existing laws. These exceptions include variances and non-conforming use permits. However, these are typically non-transferable, meaning only the business that obtained the variance or non-conforming use permit may use it. Just because a previous tenant used the space in a certain way does not necessarily mean your company will be able to do the same.
Zoning violations and citations can be costly for a business. It is always preferable to ensure you comply with all zoning and land use laws before your company gets cited for a violation and may face civil penalties, as well as costly adjustments to your operations.
Learn More About How a Houston Business Attorney Can Assist You
Whether you have questions about zoning law compliance for your business or have been accused of violating zoning laws, you should not hesitate to contact an experienced business attorney who is familiar with the commercial zoning laws in Houston. Please call The Weisblatt Law Firm at (713) 666-1981 or contact us online for more information today.
Attorney Andrew Weisblatt
Mr. Weisblatt has practiced continuously since becoming licensed in 1992 and has represented businesses ranging in size from one person start-up ventures to multi-national corporations employing hundreds of people in multiple countries. From 2005 through 2009 Mr. Weisblatt was in-house counsel and chief operating officer of a multi-national corporation in the steel products industry. That in-house position provided valuable insight into how businesses work and what they actually need from their lawyers – both in-house and outside counsel. Attorney Bio