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By John R. Merlino Jr. Esq.
Founding Attorney

If you are considering purchasing or leasing property in New York or New Jersey and running a business out of that location, keeping local zoning laws in mind is vital. These easy-to-overlook laws dictate what sort of activity you can engage in on commercial property.

Zoning laws in New York and New Jersey can be complicated to both understand and apply. Navigating these laws becomes even more complex when the laws do not permit the activity you want to conduct on a property. 

Failing to comply with these laws and ordinances or obtaining an authorized exception can be costly. Here is what you need to know about handling New York and New Jersey zoning laws for commercial properties.

What Zoning Laws Generally Cover

Municipalities in New Jersey and New York have general authority to zone parcels of land for certain uses. These uses include residential, commercial, or manufacturing and industrial uses. The commercial category is broad and can include businesses such as:

  • Bars and restaurants
  • Malls and shopping centers
  • Office space
  • Warehouses

Each type of property comes with associated regulations and ordinances that you must comply with if you are using a zoned parcel according to its purpose. These regulations include building codes and nuisance laws.

Variances From Zoning Laws

Local authorities typically punish violations of the zoning laws with a fine in New York and New Jersey. This fine can be assessed per day, which means that you would receive a fine for each day that you continue to violate the zoning laws. 

Aside from obeying the zoning laws, the other way to avoid fines and penalties is to obtain a variance. A variance is permission from the local zoning board that permits you to use the property for a purpose other than what the property is zoned for. 

Variances can also allow you to:

  • build,
  • repair, or
  • replace your structure in a way that is at odds with the building code.

Process for Obtaining a Variance

No matter where you live or seek to operate your business, the process of applying for a variance is generally the same. You begin by preparing an application that describes your proposed project or use of the property. This application and accompanying fee are then submitted to the local zoning board for review.

Next, the zoning board will review your application and notify adjacent property owners who could be affected by your request. There may be one or more hearings before the zoning board or the municipality’s government about your request. The board, city council, or other entity will then decide whether to grant your variance.

If the zoning board denies your requested variance, you may have the right to appeal to another board or council.

Rezoning a Parcel

Another option for property owners looking to put a parcel zoned for some other use to work as a commercial property is to apply for a change of zoning of the property. Again, an application must typically be submitted, and one or more hearings will need to be held before a decision will be made. 

Unlike a variance, rezoning changes the permissible use to which the parcel can be put.

Contact a Staten Island Real Estate Lawyer from Merlino & Gonzalez Today

Determining whether a parcel of property you want to use for your business ventures is properly zoned for that activity can be a more complicated process than it first appears. 

A skilled and knowledgeable Staten Island real estate attorney with Merlino & Gonzalez can advise you of the best path forward and help you secure the necessary permissions to proceed. Contact Merlino & Gonzalez to schedule a consultation and discuss your property today.

About the Author
John is a fierce advocate and the office guru for problem-solving and brainstorming. He guides clients through every stage of a real estate transaction from offer to contract, navigating through nerve-shattering home inspection and title clearance concerns, maintaining constant contact with lenders, conducting the actual closing, and continuing to advise clients with regard to any post-closing concerns.  John brings a practical and fair-minded approach to the process which has earned him the respect of his clients and peers.