Zoning laws can restrict commercial real estate

Numerous land use regulations govern commercial real estate in Minnesota. Zoning laws are among the most common restrictions covering the use of property. Local governments use these laws to control and direct property development, particularly future development.

Zoning laws divide a city into commercial, industrial and residential districts. The use of property in each division is designed to be reasonably uniform. However, local governments may also impose detailed restrictions on the types of buildings, utility lines, accessory buildings and building setbacks from streets. Cities may set other rules on the number of rooms, area and cubic feet and minimum cost.

Municipalities generally create a comprehensive or master plan as part of planning for future development. This plan is put into effect through ordinances controlling zoning, subdivision regulation development, street plans, public facility plans, and building regulations. Future developers must comply with these ordinances.

Zoning regulations have to be reasonable and bear a reasonable and substantial relationship to public health and safety and the general welfare. Zoning ordinances must be reasonable based on the needs of the local government, the purpose of the restriction, the land’s size and characteristics, the character of the neighborhood and impact on property values. Recent court decisions have limited government’s power to require land developers to give up part of their property for public use such as parks and access to lakeshores and sidewalks.

Zoning boards usually address challenges to ordinances and requests for exceptions or variances. These boards are quasi-judicial bodies that have members with specific expertise and they conduct hearings. Its decisions may be appealed to and reviewed by a court.

Legal assistance may be beneficial for a party appearing before a zoning board because of the complexity of the issues and law. Legal advice can also assist developers with other issues relating to the sales and purchase of property in commercial real estate transactions.

Source: FindLaw, “Land use and zoning basics,” Accessed Sept. 7, 2014

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