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Change of Use and Other Permits
Read This Before Moving Your Business to New Space
Moving your business to a new location can be a big pain in the ___. So, it’s important that before you move, you figure out whether you must first obtain any local permits before doing any work and/or moving in. Though not an extensive list, here are some of the most common permits your business may need:
Business License. Most local jurisdictions have some type of business license that you’ll need to obtain before you can legally open your doors. In most cases you can obtain these from the local city or county clerk’s office.
Change of Use Permit. Many jurisdictions have a formal change of use permit review process, which requires you submit information about your proposed business (traffic volumes, customer volumes, hours of operation, noise, etc.) so that the jurisdiction can guage whether you’re required to obtain any specific permits and what, if any, development standards and/or special conditions might apply. If your local jurisdiction doesn’t have a change of use permit process, you may want to submit for what’s known as a “pre-application” or “pre-submission” conference. This will allow you to provide the jurisdiction with information on your business and any improvements you want to make so that the jurisdiction can get you feedback on the rules that apply and any approvals that are required. Regardless, you shoudl always talk with the jurisdiction in advance - preferably in an in-person meeting (and take good notes).
Tenant Improvement Permit/Building Permit. If your making any alterations to the interior or exterior of a building, that work may require a building permit and building inspections. And in some cases if the improvements affect load bearing walls, utilities, etc. you may need to apply for additional permits (i.e. MEP - mechanical, eletrical or plumbing) and/or submit detailed architectural or engineering plans for review. Make sure you check with your contractor and the city to identify everything you’ll need to address.
Site Plan Approval. Site plan approvals (also called site development activity permits or SDAPs) can be required when the amount of work you’re proposing to the exterior of the building or the property triggers addition review under the zoning code and/or the jurisdictions’ engineering design and development standards. For example, this can involve reviewing whether your proposed use meets the applicable parking, landscaping, and screening requirements. It may also require you construct additional improvements to bring the site (or building) into conformance with current standards. Typically, requirements to bring a building or site into conformance aren’t required unless you exceed a $ threshold or % of the structure’s value, but you need to check with every jurisdiction as the local requirements vary.
Design Review. Some jurisdictions maintain design review standards and require that proposed exterior changes to the structure or site must go through a design review process to ensure compliance with the local zoning and/or architecture design standards. Some processes are administrative, but others must go before a local design review board.
Conditional Use Permit. Depending on what your business does, your use may be permitted outright or it may require a conditional use permit. Conditional use permits are often required when the proposed use has a higher likelihood to impact adjacent uses with noise, dust, vibration, traffic, etc. and the jurisdiction wants more power to impose conditions. However, cities can also require conditional use permits for uses in areas where it doesn’t want a proliferation of a lot of the same thing.
Occupancy Permit. When you have all your approvals and work completed and inspected, most jurisdictions will issue you an occupancy permit. It may come with restrictions on the number of people you can have in the building, etc.
Got a question about land use or zoning? Leave us a comment.
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