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Why should verifying your Project’s “Use” with the Planning Department be your first step?

The first step in planning a ground-up or interior tenant improvement project should be to visit your local Planning & Zoning Department!

We would all agree that it is fun to envision the layout of your new space or dream up the look of your building’s facade. What is more exciting is signing a lease or purchasing the land. Then the reality starts to set in as you seek out and hire your design and construction professionals. Before you know it you will go from exchanging sketches and ideas to reviewing drawings and estimates. However, much time could be wasted if you don’t verify first that your “Use” (type) fits in with and is allowed in your property’s zoning. Just as your building’s interior must safely accommodate the activity planned for its interior rooms (via “occupancy classification”), your parcel’s Zoning District will have a list of ”permitted (or allowed) uses”.

For instance you may want to open a dog care facility on a piece of land zoned C2 or Intermediate Commercial. Well in looking at the list of permitted uses within C2 you most likely will find that “pet care” is allowed, but requires a ”Conditional Use” (CU) permit. Under closer review of the list, you may notice that there are several types of pet care uses, such as pet care during business hours, pet care with overnight boarding, and pet care with overnight boarding and an outdoor activity yard. In many cities such uses as automotive sales or repair, banquet halls and outdoor dining, all require such processes. The timelime for a CUP or SUP typically take 45-90 days, depending on the complexity of the project, how adjacent property owners react and how you decide to address code stipulations within your site and design that are imposed by the municipality. Not only will this process add unforeseen time and costs onto your schedule, but it may prevent your project from proceeding beyond preliminary design and onto the construction documents phase.


Don’t roll the dice with your next building endeavor. Hire a design professional such as Mike Marden of WDS Architecture to assist you with the process!