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What is a Zoning Report?

Zoning Reports help you understand a real estate asset’s compliance with municipal zoning law in terms of existing use, height, setbacks, occupancy density, parking, and rebuilding thresholds.

A well compiled Zoning Report and a good consultant can help you understand, assess and resolve specific zoning issues or potential problems that may arise.  One problem that often comes up for nonconforming properties is determining if the improvements can be made and how the property must be rebuilt after a fire or other disaster.  A Zoning Report is also a critical piece of due diligence because the current owner is responsible for existing zoning violations.

Zoning Reports, sometimes called “Preliminary Zoning Reports”, are a standard component of commercial real estate due diligence.  Our Zoning Reports are often just added on to our other due diligence products such as an ALTA Survey, a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment, and Property Condition Assessment, and are completed in the same timeframe.  A lot of clients see the advantage of bundling Zoning Reports with other reports because these other scopes of work require the professionals to visit the property and or city offices in person.  Often this direct contact can be very valuable when gathering zoning information or addressing a zoning issue.

Standard Zoning Report scope of work includes:

  • Determine the specific zoning designation, as established by the current municipal code;
  • Determine allowable uses under the zoning designation established by the zoning ordinance and whether the present use of the subject property conforms;
  • Determine the minimum parking requirement and compare to actual parking count;
  • Determine the density restrictions of the property;
  • Determine minimum yard or setback requirements;
  • Determine building height restrictions and the asset’s compliance;
  • Determine implications of any nonconformities

Zoning Reports require careful understanding of the real estate entitlement law, zoning codes, jurisdictional control, controlling legal doctrines, and enforcement trends in different municipalities.

It can make a big difference in the quality of a Zoning Report if the local laws and ordinances are researched and analyzed by an actual legal professional.  Not all firms provide this, but we feel it is significant not only to ensure proper interpretation and application of the laws and regulations pertaining to the property, but also to ensure that the research for the Zoning Reports is complete and accurate.  A lot of times zoning analysis is not black and white, the classification of nonconformities, dates of enactment of zoning provisions, and ancillary legal considerations can dramatically affect the use and area considerations of a property.  Having a Zoning Report compiled by a legal professional ensures a deeper and more complete analysis of zoning compliance.