Zoning laws are often similar from one municipality to the next, but the details may be significant enough to prevent you from running a business like the one your friend started a few miles away. Fortunately, cities also have a process for requesting an exception or change.
Here are a few common restrictions that you are likely to face.
Most towns require their neighborhoods to look residential and not commercial. In Bingham Farms, for example, the zoning ordinance clearly states that no one should be able to tell from the outside of a home that there is a business operating within. This includes signs or identifying markers.
The appearance also extends to equipment, noise, lights, fumes or odors detectable to people who are not on the property.
People generally want to live in neighborhoods that have low traffic and safe, uncrowded streets. Zoning ordinances typically rule out businesses that involve retail sales on the property that would increase vehicle traffic and use parking spaces.
Some cities allow an employee or two as long as it does not stress the parking situation, but Bingham Farms restricts employees to those who already live in the house with you. The ordinance also expressly states that if you need extra parking, it has to be off the street and not in your front yard.
Your business should not pose a hazard to the health or welfare of anyone in the neighborhood. If anyone on your block complains and the officials of the municipality order you to discontinue your business, you have the right to appeal the decision to the council.
Some people believe in acting first and asking permission later. However, when it comes to a business in your home, reviewing the zoning ordinances, filing necessary permits and making adjustments as required before launching the business could be much more effective than appealing neighbor complaints to the council after a couple of months of operations, hoping not to get shut down.