Rachel RespondsSeptember 21, 2018

I'm looking at property and wondering what I can do with it, if I buy it.

Question:

Can I house interns, workers, or other family members? Can I subdivide the land? Can I do retail food services? Value-added production? Agritourism? Where can I learn about potential limitations on use?

Answer:

Zoning ordinances can set limitations on the type and extent of activities that can occur on a specific piece of property, including farm property. Farm operations are generally allowed, but retail, commercial, or manufacturing ventures often are not. Where non-farm ventures are allowed, permits may be required first.

Potential purchasers will need to research and learn the specific zoning obligations for the land they are looking at. This may involve calling the local zoning authority (which may be a city, town, country, or other unit of government). Many local entitites have their zoning codes online. Other options in discovering what your zoning code allows include talking with a local attorney, or asking a reference librarian for assistance.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Many Farm Commons resources include sections on learning about local laws, including zoning. These include Adding Value to Farm Prodcuts: The Legal Issues and Host Safer, More Legally Secure On-Farm EventsFarm Commons also offers two shorter documents about interacting with local regulators: our Working with Regulators guidebook and deaing with Regulators tipsheet.

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