FAQ

Picking a Legal Business Location Dos & Don'ts

Every business owner is looking for the right location, whether the goal is to get as much foot traffic passing by, easy deliveries, or creating a synergy with other nearby businesses. However, sometimes the quest for the perfect location neglects one crucial element - will zoning and other laws and ordinances allow the business to operate there legally? Below are some Dos & Don'ts for picking a great place to open up shop without causing legal headaches later.

The Dos

  • Do determine whether the zoning of your potential location will accommodate your business.
  • Do find out if there are any plans to change zoning in the area that might affect your ability to operate your business.
  • Do research zoning ordinances to find out what may be regulated (for example, parking, signs, water and air quality, waste management, noise, and visual appearance).
  • Do get to know your neighbors and develop friendly relationships with them. Most complaints about a minor zoning violation occur because a neighbor is irritated.
  • Do be willing to expend some money and energy to find a creative solution to zoning problems. Not only may it make it possible for you to do business at a location, but it can win you allies and provide positive relations for your business. For example, if parking is inadequate for the location, a business owner might hire an architect to review a nearby small parking ramp. In turn, the architect might determine that an additional fifteen cars could park there if the stripes were redrawn. In order to get a variance, the business owner could offer to re-stripe the parking lot, which would also benefit other businesses in the area.

The Don'ts

  • Don't sign a commercial lease without first knowing that you will legally be able to do business at the location, unless the lease is contingent on appropriate zoning.
  • Don't ignore regulations or hedge around them just a little bit. Hoping that the municipality won't notice or won't care can be an expensive bet.
  • Don't give up on a great location just because the zoning isn't quite right. Making good contacts in the community and in local business organizations can get you the kind of support you need to ask for, and receive, a variance.
  • Don't try to navigate zoning issues alone. Local business organizations can provide valuable information to entrepreneurs regarding the appropriate officials and procedures involved. An attorney who has experience with zoning can also be invaluable.

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