Opening a brick-and-mortar location for your Nashville business is always a complicated experience, whether it is your first time dealing with commercial real estate or your hundredth time. Maybe a commercial space offers almost everything that you need, or it seems perfect until you realize all the zoning restrictions that apply.
Zoning conflicts can turn a great business opportunity into a nightmare full of red tape and fine print. If you find yourself stuck with zoning restrictions that get in the way of operating your business effectively, you may have more options than you realize.
Are zoning regulations flexible?
Zoning regulations are not always bad, because they often protect certain populations or resources from businesses or housing developers making a profit at others' expense. However, zoning issues are decided by zoning committees, filled with individuals who have their own agendas and mutually beneficial relationships. Navigating these committees and the complicated rules that they create can prove frustrating without a clear understanding of how zoning matters work.
Zoning regulations have exceptions, and a committee may agree to create an exception if a business with a zoning conflict presents a compelling case. Your zoning problem may not be as impossible to resolve as it seems.
Making your case
Zoning boards typically hold public hearings to consider the merits of a request for an exception to zoning regulations. You may want to begin by gathering support in the community around your proposed location so that the board sees that you have public support when in the hearing itself. The more support for your zoning exception there is in the community, the more likely the board is to allow it.
You may have several options when it comes time to request the exceptions you need. You may either ask for a conditional use permit or request a variance from the regulation altogether.
Conditional use permits allow a business to circumvent zoning regulations as long as the business meets certain conditions, such as minimizing impact on the surrounding area, or footing the bill for renovations that address a problem in the space.
Variances allow a business to operate above a zoning regulation, and boards may grant them if the business makes a compelling case that the regulation creates "undue hardship." These are typically easier to obtain with significant community support.
As you navigate your own zoning issues, be sure to use high quality legal resources, to keep your rights and priorities secure and ensure that your business has all the tools it needs to succeed.