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Do you change the zone with a real estate variance?

On Behalf of | Apr 10, 2024 | Property Law

When buying real estate for commercial purposes, it is important to know that it is in the right zone. There are three main zones in use in most areas: Industrial, commercial and residential. These dictate the type of properties that can exist within those zones and how that real estate can be used.

These three categories do not encompass all real estate in the United States. Some commercial areas are set up for specific types of businesses, for instance. There are also mixed-use zones, such as apartment buildings with both residential apartments and commercial shops.

Why would you use a variance?

A variance is used when you are interested in using the property in a way that’s not permitted under the zone. For instance, maybe it is a commercial zone, but it is just for retail shops. You want to open an activity center, such as a climbing gym. This would not be permitted under the zone, so you have to ask for a variance that authorizes you to use that property in a unique way.

But this doesn’t actually change the zone that you’re located in. The variance only applies to your specific property. In other words, just because a neighboring business owner already received a variance does not mean that you can use your property in the same way. The variance that they received would not apply and you would need to request your own.

Zoning issues can cause a business to grind to a halt, which is why it is so important to understand how these zones work and what legal steps you can take as a business owner.