You have the right to earn an honest living, free from arbitrary, burdensome and protectionist regulation. We call this “economic liberty.” This civil right is protected by the United State’s Constitution. Do not let the government tell you otherwise. – “Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide,” Institute for Justice
If you’re playing hoops or inking a sleeve, being in the zone is good thing. If you’re in a business looking to settle in a neighborhood with restrictions, not so much.
Plainly put, commercial zoning laws control the type of activities a business can conduct in a specific area and the category of business that can occupy the zoned area. Zoning provides the standards and regulations that apply to land and structures, and helps a communities to function properly. It may deal with parking allocation, building occupancy, signage, even health and safety. Many of these ordinances have evolved over a great deal of time, and are often very complex in nature.
It’s common to hear about alternative businesses, like tattoo studios, that have been restricted from setting up shop in one part of town, or even on a specific street or business district. Often, the reasons cited are a result of misperceptions about the nature of the business. A perfect example is a Tennessee tattoo parlor recently forced to redraw its plans due to a law that blindly labeled the business “adult entertainment.”
So, what are you supposed to do if you’ve found the perfect spot for your new business, but have been told no-go? Before you simply give in and reluctantly relocate to location that may or may not be as beneficial to your future success, you might want to take it up with city hall.
If a business wants to do something that is not in conformity with the zoning code, whether it relates to the specific type of business, remodeling the existing space, signage, etc,. it can apply for a variance. This is a permitted exception to the general rules set forth in the zoning law. To get the desired exception, you’ll need to present your case to the zoning board of appeals.
The big guy does not always get his way – and you’ll find that the people who makes decisions are not out to get you, but rather are concerned citizens doing what’s best for all involved. As a business owner, you will have the opportunity to argue your side and members of the public can voice their opinions as well. In the end, what counts is who has the most articulate, reasonable, competent evidence, and whose presentation is most persuasive.
Dispel the Myths
Help decision makers understand the reality of your business and eliminate any out-dated impressions. Present licenses you’ve attained and awards that you’ve earned to show your commitment to bring a a legitimate part of the business community. If your clients include local law enforcement, health care workers, and other adult professionals have them on your side to help sway opinions.
Strong support from the business community may help win over zoning and planning officials. If others can advocate the potential benefit to the community, it may be easier to generate backing for your business. Seek support from trade associations, the chamber of commerce, and a business development office in the community. This is a good opportunity to have community members and other nearby businesses offer support through a written petition. It is also effective to ward off any criticism before the hearing by reaching an agreement with those who may object to your business moving in.
It might be hard to win a fight against city hall, but with preparedness, professionalism and persistence, you’ll have a good chance of getting them to bend the rules in your favor.