Commercial Leasing and Zoning

Different municipalities have different zoning rules - Learn how you can minimize the potential impact of zoning when choosing a potential commercial lease property.

What You Need to Know When Looking for a Location for Your Business

by Bruce Tannas

It might not be the first thing you think about when looking for a business location, but an important consideration is the zoning of a space. Commercial zoning isn’t the same as residential zoning and is usually more complex with rules around the type of business that can occupy a space as well as other rules around parking, setbacks, signage, etc. As a result, the commercial zoning of a business location is an important consideration when you’re looking for a commercial lease space.

Research Local Zoning Rules

Zoning rules and regulations in Canada vary by province and municipality. So it is important to understand the basics of zoning for the municipality where you want your business location. Start by reviewing at the land use bylaw for the municipality you wish to locate in. That way you will better understand the various zoning rules and regulations (most municipalities will have this online along with some explanations on their website). You can also call the planning department or the economic development department and speak to someone to further clarify the classifications that might apply to your business.

Permitted Use of Spaces Under Consideration

Commercial zoning regulations assign permitted uses and may also have discretionary uses for a particular building or commercial space. As you look for the perfect location for your business you will need to consider what use the space currently falls under. Commercial spaces that are currently zoned for the same purpose, that you are planning to use the space for, require the least amount of permitting. Whereas spaces that are not zoned for the same or similar purposes will require more time and effort to have the zoning changed (if it is possible at all to make the zoning or use change). As a result, is important to understand what the current permitted use is for a particular space.

As you review at different locations, you should consider eliminating properties that have incompatible zoning. Your commercial real estate professional may be able to help you with this as commercial real estate listings may include the current zoning. Once you narrow down the potential business locations, you should check with the planning department to ensure that the permitted use conforms to your business needs before you sign a commercial lease.

Renovating and the Current Use of a Space

Another issue you should be aware about is whether or not renovating the space would cause a change in zoning requirements. Zoning regulations are updated from time to time and usually current businesses are ‘grandfathered’ into their current use. That may change when a new tenant comes in or if the space is renovated. So be sure to enquire about that if you are planning to renovate. Also, you should ensure that any previous work was completed with a proper permit, or you may be required to remove the work that wasn’t properly permitted.

Commercial zoning regulations can have a big impact on the suitability of a business location. So, it is important to understand both the type of zoning your business needs and the zoning of a potential space is compatible. If they are not compatible, then you will have to get the zoning changed which will add time and cost to moving to your new business location. You should familiarize yourself with the regulations and get help from your local municipal government and professionals such as a commercial real estate agent. If you do a little homework, you can minimize the potential impact of zoning when choosing a potential commercial lease property.

Connect4Commerce offers entrepreneurs and small business owners across the country a convenient and comprehensive place to connect, exchange goods and services, and advance their businesses. Be sure to check out further articles in our Small Business News blog for additional resources. Also, find professionals on our site that can help you build your business. when you’re ready to find the perfect space for your business you can find the commercial listings on our website.

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