When purchasing a commercial property, local zoning laws and ordinances play a big role. Most properties are fit into specific zones regulating how they can be used. A commercial property owner is only allowed to operate in ways that are permitted, and someone who is buying that property must know what its zoning is in advance.
For example, three of the most common types of zones concern residential, commercial and industrial property. Zoning generally aims to benefit property values and neighborhoods. It means that homeowners generally will not have a factory show up next door, nor will they find themselves living right next to a supermarket. Retail spaces tend to cluster together, as do industrial operations.
What is a variance?
When someone is purchasing a property that is not in the correct zone for how they want to use it, they may request a variance. This could give them the ability to utilize their property in the way they see fit. For instance, maybe the area is technically zoned for retail stores, but they want to start a manufacturing plant. If the property in question is not in the proper zone for that purpose, they can request a variance from the local authorities.
A variance will not change standing zoning. If the variance is granted, the zone will remain the same but the variance will allow the property owner to lawfully break those zoning regulations. Others who own property in the area will sometimes be asked for their perspectives before a variance request will be confirmed or denied. Should the variance be granted? Would it be beneficial? How would it be detrimental or have a negative effect on that area? A lot of different factors have to be weighed before a variance request will be either granted or rejected. As a result, seeking legal guidance before purchasing a property that may require a variance to be used as intended is generally a good idea.