What is a zoning variance?

On Behalf of | Aug 15, 2022 | Commercial Real Estate

If you’re interested in purchasing a commercial property, you may be frustrated to learn that the property is not in the right zone for the type of business you want to run. Even worse is if this happens after you’ve already made the purchase, and only then do you realize that you can’t actually start your company.

People may tell you that what you need to do is get a zoning variance. They’ll say that this can change the zone, allowing you to run your company as you see fit. What is a variance, and how does it work?

It’s an exception

You shouldn’t think of a variance as something that changes the zone. It doesn’t. The zone itself stays completely the same.

Instead, the variance is an exception to the rule. Maybe you want to start a manufacturing company in an area that is only zoned for commercial retail projects. That zone will still only bring in more retail companies in the future, but they may allow your manufacturing company to operate as well if you’re given the variance. The government considers these on a case-by-case basis.

This also means that you can’t assume that someone else getting a variance means that you will. The government could grant one business a variance and refuse to grant it to another. Once again, this is because the zone itself has not changed at all. The government just gets to decide which businesses are going to be given the exception and which ones are not.

Working through the process

Being in the correct zone is a critical part of buying real estate and starting a company. Be sure that you’re well aware of the steps you can take.