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Planning for parking: Know your zoning laws

The U.S is a car country. Despite much recent talk of driverless vehicles, car sharing and increased public transportation, the car is here to stay for quite some time. Moreover, it might even be on the rise: in Houston, Texas there were 1.59 vehicles per household in 2016, rising from 1.58 in 2015

A key concern

If you are a commercial property developer, this means parking is and will stay a key concern when developing your businesses. Your customers will need somewhere to park, especially if your property is based far out from the urban center. There are newly engineered solutions using apps, sensors, parking garages more attractive an option. Alternatively, as a last resort, you or your tenants might even have to provide valet parking - a great service or a necessary evil, depending on your view.

Zoning

For the developer, it's good to know parking laws, and that means understanding zoning. Houston does not have many of the restrictions of other cities around many zoning issues such as single use restrictions or residential density limits.

What it does regulate is off-street parking. The regulation will allot you a minimum number of spaces you must provide, does. When looking at the zoning laws in depth, it's easy to see why developers are less likely to build infill or downtown, and instead, favor the sprawling suburbs. These zoning laws related to parking are arguably the primary reason that car use is still the norm in the Lone Star State.

Zoning laws are good to know, not only for parking but other activities such as noise levels, waste management, appearance and air quality. In commercial zones, ordinances might restrict you to the number of stories, type of signage and the number of any other similar businesses in the area.

If limited parking exists, you may have to submit a parking plan. It might pay to do some extra research and contact someone with experience in zoning and parking matters, such as civil engineers or your local government who could drive you safely to a successful development.

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