• Edison Vasquez

Understanding the Basics of Industrial Zoning



There are a few primary differences between property that is zoned for commercial use (broadly) and industrial use (more specifically). People tend to associate industrial with nuisance activity, such as loud trucks entering and exiting a property at all hours of the night and loud, sometimes pollution-generating machinery operating on and around the site. This has caused many cities and towns to adopt industrial zoning, which only allows industrial activity to occur on properties with such zoning.


In reality, industrial uses are not as noxious as they once were. In fact, many industrial properties are clean, highly efficient, and as sustainable as other modern commercial buildings. That said, there are still zoning ordinances that need to be followed.

Many industrial properties are clean, highly efficient, and as sustainable as other modern commercial buildings. That said, there are still zoning ordinances that need to be followed.

Below is an overview of industrial zoning.

Commercial vs. Industrial Zoning The primary differences between commercial and industrial zoning tend to be around lot size, setback requirements, noise, parking, and environmental considerations. Commercial zoning tends to be more prevalent and allows for any business operations to occur within those properties as long as they meet certain criteria (e.g., manufacturing activities may be prohibited). Industrial zoning will often require lot sizes to be larger than they would otherwise need to be in general business districts. This provides more breathing room for industrial activity to occur, with more distance between the business operations and neighbors. Industrial developers will want to be sure the property they are acquiring has sufficient lot area to accommodate the size and scale of the building they have in mind.


Setback requirements are another consideration and are tangentially related to lot size. An industrial building will usually need to have more significant setbacks (e.g., the distance between the building and the property line) than commercial buildings. Again, this is to provide sufficient distance between the (perceived) nuisance uses and the neighbors. Wider setbacks are also used to ensure the property has sufficient area around the building to accommodate heavy machinery and truck traffic, as well as any utility lines or other infrastructure improvements that may be needed at the industrial site.


Noise is a key consideration for any municipality weighing whether or not to zone a property as industrial land. Industrial is often prohibited near residential areas given concerns over noise. This is especially true for buildings that have large rooftop mechanical systems, heavy machinery, or will require significant truck traffic. The zoning may require a cease of industrial business operations during certain overnight hours to provide relief for residents living nearby.


It is important to understand the local zoning code to ensure that the building you are interested in purchasing or leasing is appropriate for the industrial businesses you hope to occupy the space.

The amount and siting of parking is also a key consideration for industrial sites. Zoning may require a certain number of parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of industrial space. This number may go up or down depending on the type of industrial activity. For example, a warehousing or distribution center may need very few parking spaces for employees, but the size of the parking spaces may need to be larger to accommodate the commercial box trucks arriving to and from the site, especially if any of those vehicles are parked overnight.


Types of Industrial Zoning Each municipality has its own zoning code and may define types of industrial zoning differently. Therefore, it is important for any industrial investor to understand the local zoning to see which types of industrial buildings are allowed at a property under existing zoning, and which are allowed by-right vs. through a special permit process. In general, however, the broad types of industrial zoning include: dry cleaning or laundry services, data center, manufacturing (heavy or light), moving and/or self-storage, recycling collection/transfer stations, salvage yards, trucking and transportation depots, and wholesale trade or distribution centers.


The broad types of industrial zoning include: dry cleaning or laundry services, data center, manufacturing (heavy or light), moving and/or self-storage, recycling collection/transfer stations, salvage yards, trucking and transportation depots, and wholesale trade or distribution centers.

Depending on the geography, there might be a separate industrial category called “marina” which is a site used for docking, storage and/or repair of boats while in the water. Sometimes, these marina sites will also be permitted to have ancillary, long-term dry storage for recreational watercraft including boats, jet skis and other water-based vehicles.


Industrial Zoning Permitted Uses


Industrial zoning permitted uses generally align with the types of industrial zoning outlined above. Permitted uses may include:

· Dry cleaning or laundry services: these are uses that provide centralized dry cleaning or laundry services for other industrial, commercial or business establishments.

· Data Center: uses that provide information storage and processing services to other businesses or end users through a collection of computer services and related information technology infrastructure.

· Manufacturing: The processing, assembly, treatment, or packaging of mass-produced finished parts or products primarily through automation, mechanization, or assembly line processes. Typical manufacturing uses include electronics and electrical equipment assembly, food and beverage processing and packaging, and the production of parts and sub-assemblies for other products. Operations may include the storage of materials and the loading/unloading of new materials and finished products. Showrooms and the ancillary sales of goods are usually prohibited on sites zoned for manufacturing use. The production or use of hazardous or explosive material may only be required through a separate permitting process.

· Moving or Storage Services: These are uses engaged in the moving of household or office furniture, appliances and equipment from one location to another, including the temporary storage of those items. This may include self-storage and mini-storage warehouses.

· Trucking or Transportation Uses: These are businesses that are engaged in the dispatching and short- or long-term storage of large vehicles. Minor repair and maintenance of vehicles may also be allowed, depending on the municipality. A municipality may request additional information, for example, about the capacity of the local thoroughfare network to provide access to the site, and the impact that truck traffic would have on pedestrian, bicycle or vehicular circulation in the neighborhood. The municipality may also request information about vehicle site lines needed to enter and exit the site, as well as the visual impact and quality of the screening for parked business vehicles.

· Wholesale Trade or Distribution: These are business uses engaged in the wholesale collection, sorting, processing and distribution of bulk mail, packages, or commercial goods, storage, processing, and distribution of bulk goods including but not limited to furniture; professional and commercial equipment; electrical goods; hardware, plumbing and heating goods; paper and plastic products; apparel; food and beverages; healthcare equipment and supplies; and any other goods needed to sustain commercial activity (whether that be commercial, retail, or other industrial businesses).

The range of industrial uses permitted on industrially-zoned land can vary widely from one municipality to another.

Again, depending on the local municipality, ancillary retail sales and/or wholesale showrooms may or may not be permitted uses. Activities that include physical assembling, sorting and grading goods from large lots into smaller lots may be allowed, as long as the processes used have minimal impact on abutting property owners.


In short, the range of industrial uses permitted on industrially-zoned land can vary widely from one municipality to another. It is important to understand the local zoning code to ensure that the building you are interested in purchasing or leasing is appropriate for the industrial businesses you hope to occupy the space.


About the ComReal Miami Industrial Team: The ComReal Miami Industrial Team has been assisting companies with their South Florida real estate needs for over 30 years. The industrial team specializes in the sales and leasing of industrial properties. Visit Warehouses Market and/or call 786-433-2380 for more information.


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