When selecting a possible location for your business, zoning ordinance and use guidelines can be an indication of whether a property is a good match or can even be considered for your business plans. There are a few resources that will guide you to the zoning information that you need in order to understand permitted uses of the property.
In the state of Michigan, a good place to start is by logging into BS&A Online. Other states will have BS&A Online or something similar. BS&A Online is a collection of services providing instant and convenient access to important pieces of information recorded by respective local government entities. A Public Records Search allows title companies, realtors, and other interested parties to view municipal information. Some municipalities provide access to property information free of charge, while others may charge a small fee for each property search. This information is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Another valuable online resource is your County’s Geological Information Services (GIS) mapping website such as Washtenaw County’s — CLICK HERE. This will allow you to navigate detailed maps as well as look-up a specific property parcel to understand zoning, lot descriptions, ownership and more. With such a vast amount of property information available through exploring map layers (not limited to zoning, and including historic districts, floodplain boundaries, environmental evaluations, etc.), GIS information can be overwhelming. Washtenaw County offers a simpler property/parcel look-up system for those who want to streamline their research process. Be sure to have a property address, tax ID #, or legal owner name as your search criteria. Then CLICK HERE.
Finally, review the municipality’s online Planning & Zoning site. This will provide detailed information including zoning maps, zoning codes (i.e. RM1, CB2, PUD, etc.), ordinances, and definitions for Permitted/Allowed Uses and Conditional Uses. If you have questions that are not clearly answered by Planning and Zoning descriptions, contact the municipality Building Department using the phone number provided on the Planning and Zoning site. It is recommended that future buyers and tenants reach out to the municipality to confirm use suitability.
While many online sources of information will outline the zoning ordinance of a property, reaching out to a local commercial real estate broker can be beneficial. A local broker can provide additional unique information regarding possible uses or advantages for your business being located in a specific zoning area. In many cases, the broker already has a relationship with the municipality zoning department to guide a client through zoning hurdles. Don’t hesitate to ask your broker to help research the zoning of a potential property. –Tony Caprarese, Associate Broker