“Zoning’s fundamental purpose is to protect a community’s health, safety and welfare. It prescribes standards for development by helping to protect public and private interest, preserve critical areas, promote orderly growth, and encourage development in keeping with community desires. These land use regulations are a set of local laws that are codified into a document known as the Zoning Ordinance or Zoning Code.”…Sarasota County Planning and Development Service Cutsheet Series.
Zoning Districts classify lots and parcels into categories. The most frequently used Districts are: commercial, industrial and residential. Within these general categories there are more specific definitions.
The State of Florida mandated the counties to draft a comprehensive plan. Most communities also have a comprehensive plan which a policy document that establishes the community’s vision, goals and objectives and is mandated by the State of Florida. Zoning Ordinance is the legally binding regulatory tool that helps make the Comprehensive plan a reality.
The Zoning Ordinance specifies the areas in which residential, industrial, recreational and commercial activities may take place. For example, CN, Commercial Neighborhood, zoning districts only permit neighborhood scale businesses. Big box stores are not permitted to use the land even if there is adequate space for their business.
When purchasing or leasing commercial property it is important to know the approved usage under the zoning classification. It is a common practice to provide the zoning district and usage when advertising commercial property. The first step in deciding on a location for your business is to make yourself aware of what is permitted in the Zoning district and what is not. For instance, you may what to open a restaurant and enjoy the use of a outdoor café seating with umbrellas and entertainment. Some Commercial General (CG) zoning will not allow outdoor dining, displaying of merchandise and/or entertainment. The Community Zoning Ordinance regulates the dimensional requirements for lots, buildings, signage, setbacks, wall height, etc.
Is zoning permanent? No, both zoning districts and ordinances can be changed. This can be a complex and costly investment. I would urge you to seek representation.
Another way that properties are governed or controlled but not by the city or county governments is by “deed restrictions”. These are covenants that are written by the developer and then adopted and governed by the owner’s association of that community after the developer has completed or substantially completed the project.