Construction Law

What is a zoning permit?

By Brian Farkas, Attorney
Local zoning restrictions mean that certain types of building or renovation require a permit first.

Zoning and land use issues can be complex for property owners, who must in many situations comply with permitting rules that are based on zoning laws or regulations.

Broadly speaking, zoning involves the planning and designation of land uses within a city or municipality so as to promote health and safety. For example, some land is zoned as residential, in which case it would be impermissible for a homeowner to open up a storefront on that residential land.

Alternatively, some land is zoned as commercial, and it would be impermissible for the owner to rent out a commercial office to tenants who want to live there round the clock.

Even within such broad categories, local or municipal governments may set up further distinctions, for example limiting the number of families who can occupy particular residences, or limiting the types of work (such as manufacturing or chemical work) that can be performed within commercial space.

For new construction, or substantial renovation, many municipalities require a zoning permit. The purpose is to ensure that the work being done is compatible with the applicable local zoning.

If, for example, you seek to construct a porch on your home, you may be required to apply to the local zoning board to make sure that this structure meets with the local zoning requirements. (If you were to seek a permit for building a large factory on your lawn, such a permit would probably be denied, assuming the area is zoned as residential).

If you believe you might have zoning issues with your commercial property, read Nolo’s guide to Dealing With Zoning Problems; or check out Zoning and Improvement Issues for Home Improvements for information regarding your residential property.

Go to the main construction law FAQ page.

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