COVID-19 Impact on Zoning Regulations
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has truly been a catastrophic event with long lasting impacts. While it is not entirely clear what all the impacts will be felt long term, it is reasonable to assume that an increase in teleworking and at-home shopping will occur. This shift has the potential to completely change established land use patterns throughout the country. Areas filled with commercial office space may be underutilized, as there be a large at-home work force. Shopping centers could become vacant with consumers opting to shop from home, a trend that was already having significant impacts on retail prior to the pandemic. With the technology available to work and shop from home, along with a pandemic forcing everyone to isolate from one another, it would seem inevitable that major shifts are in motion that will change how cities are spatially organized in the years to come.
Some of the short-term impacts are already resulting in quick changes to zoning regulations, including the addition of parking requirements to allow for curb side pickup and easy to obtain permitting that allows restaurant outdoor seating within the public right-of-way. Long term, cities may be left with a glut of empty office and retail tenants, while having a shortage of areas zoned to allow for warehouse space to meet the continuing demand for at-home shopping. Complicating matters more, many cities will see shifts in revenue as less consumers drive to major retail centers to make purchases and less office workers are available to frequent restaurants and support services during the work week.
As a commercial building owner, it will be important to have a clear understanding of the zoning in which your property is located and what other opportunities there are to potentially change the use. With more activities being able to be conducted at home, the value of commercially zoned property has the potential to decrease sharply, while the value of property zoned to allow for warehouse, logistics, and other support services for e-commerce will continue to gain value. Obtaining a zoning report with Zoning Research Group, prepared by a Certified Zoning Analyst, can provide property owners with the information they need to understand what other uses their site can be used for.