City and county governments in Michigan create land use and zoning regulations in order to preserve the safety and health of a community. They also use zoning to control an area’s growth. Land use regulations and zoning ordinances govern the way property is used. For example, certain types of businesses may only be permitted to operate in a specific area. Zoning ordinances can also regulate the appearances of buildings — such as the height, color, building materials and how far the building must be built away from the roadway.

Most zoning ordinances categorize areas of the city as residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and recreational. Residential areas are typically split up into multi-family and single family areas. Commercial areas are places where offices and retail stores are allowed to do business. Industrial areas typically house manufacturing businesses. Agricultural areas allow for farming. Recreational areas reserve land for recreational-type activities.

Land use ordinances are always changing, but often if a new zoning law causes an existing occupant to be out of compliance with the law, the occupant can petition to continue doing business. However, if that occupant leaves and a new occupant takes its place, land use violations may result. Another issue relates to a variance that a previous occupant may have had that enabled it to conduct business that was out of conformance with zoning regulations. If a new occupant signs a lease on that area to conduct similar business, he or she could be in for a surprise when city officials come knocking on the door.

The complex issues that can develop with zoning problems could be enough to bankrupt a business. This is why it is crucial to consult with an attorney before signing a long-term lease or deciding to purchase a commercial property. A qualified legal professional can identify any potential setbacks with regard to zoning and help resolve them before one gets stuck inside the actual property.

Source: FindLaw, “Commercial Zoning” Sep. 04, 2014

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