5 Tips to Help You Better Understand Zoning in Charlotte

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Before you sign a lease or purchase a building, you need to fully understand all of the legal issues and requirements surrounding the use of land and buildings in Charlotte.

If your business is ready to get in “the zone”–literally–the City of Charlotte zoning department connects you to the resources and information you need to better understand zoning, building standards, land use, and so much more.

Tip: Although these resources are incredibly helpful, the Charlotte zoning experts also recommend consulting with a professional broker, agent, architect or engineer who is familiar with local regulations, especially if you plan to occupy an existing building.

Here are a few helpful hints about zoning in Charlotte, from the City of Charlotte themselves!

1. Know the zoning ordinances on your building before you finalize the paperwork.

Every parcel in Charlotte has a zoning designation that determines what the property can be used for. Getting it wrong can mean a delay in the process, in addition to loss of income and increased costs. Ouch. So how can you find the property zoning classification in Charlotte?

For one, you could visit Virtual Charlotte, which will show you the City of Charlotte’s zoning map. You can also check out Charlotte's zoning map on Virtual Charlotte.

You can also request a Zoning verification letter by calling 311, or speak to the Zoning Department in person at 700 N. Tryon St.

2. Sometimes knowing the zoning of your property isn’t enough.

In addition to knowing what your property is zoned for, you also need to know its last known use; moreover, if the existing building is currently vacant, find out how long it’s been vacant. Why? Because even if the zoning classification allows you to use the property for your intended purpose, the use of the property will determine which building codes apply.

Tip: For existing buildings located within the Charlotte city limits, the Charlotte Fire Prevention Bureau may have records on last known occupancy and use.

3. Special urban districts exist in the Charlotte city limits.

These include UMUD, MUDD, TOD, PED and TS. If your property is located in an urban district, you may be required to make improvements on your site before you can begin operating your business.

The Charlotte Zoning Ordinance will help you identify requirements for special districts. If you are in an urban district and are required to make improvements to your site, be prepared to attend a conceptual meeting prior to plan submittal.

4. Learn the requirements in place for bringing property up to code.

Failing to learn this before you buy or lease property could end up costing you more money than anticipated.

Contact the Commercial Technical Assistance Center (CTAC) to find out if improvements are required. Be prepared to discuss the details of your project. Have the following information readily available: property address, previous use, vacancy, and your proposed use for the property.

Projects requiring site work–such as parking, driveways and landscaping, should contact Charlotte’s Land Development staff at 704-336-6692.

Tip: For most improvements, you will be required to have a building permit before doing any work.

5. Understand what is required under ADA compliance.

Doing so will help you to calculate your total project costs. Based on requirements enforced by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you might be required to make improvements to the property, which could include special parking and accessibility ramps, adding compliant bathrooms, widening doorways, etc. Failing to understand ADA compliance for your property before you buy or lease could cost you more money than anticipated!

To learn if you will be required to make improvements to your property, all you have to do is contact the CTAC.

Tip: To learn more about ADA compliance, take a moment to read about the federal tax incentives for making these improvements.

Zoning, building standards and land use issues can be complex topics for business owners selecting a site. Learn more about how the City of Charlotte can help you with zoning, site selection and more!