As we cover the church building process from start to finish, the next step to look at is zoning. Whether you’re starting from scratch or considering a major church remodeling project, you will need to ensure that your church design meets the zoning requirements for the area of town in which it is built.
Every city and town in America have their own set of maps showing what can and can’t be built in various areas. While zoning can feel restrictive, it is often put in place to prevent some very frustrating situations. For example, people don’t want a noisy manufacturing facility to be built in the midst of a quiet residential neighborhood. So, it is required that your proposed or current church building meet the zoning requirements for where it is placed.
The Church Building and Conditional Use
In 90% of the zoning classifications we’ve encountered, church buildings are considered conditional use properties. The good news is that conditional classes, not being specific, are not explicitly excluded from most zones in a municipality. The bad news is that because a specific use isn’t specified, it usually means having to go before government authorities to get approval. Sometimes this involves meeting with the zoning officer, while at other times it involves an official public hearing.
Typical Church Design Zoning Restrictions
Occasionally church leaders ask us why they cannot do something with their church design that another church, across town or in another city, has done. The likely answer is that the other church’s zoning regulations are different. For example, in a downtown area with high-rise office buildings and apartment complexes, the building height limit will be higher than that of a suburban residential neighborhood.
Another restriction relates to lot coverage. Some cities restrict a church building with a maximum lot coverage of 20-30% of the available land. If you are looking to expand with a church remodeling project on a four-acre lot, you will need to make sure that your new design does not cover more than one acre with church buildings. This can be less of an issue in a more open space in a residential neighborhood than a restricted space in a downtown location, but still important to consider.
Parking is another zoning requirement consideration. Regulations usually want one parking spot for every three or four people in your worship space. If you hope to expand your church’s footprint in the future, we suggest you allow one parking spot for every two or two and a half people currently in your sanctuary.
If you are thinking about constructing a new church building and haven’t yet purchased your land, you should be checking into the zoning requirements for each property you consider. If you have specific questions about zoning, we’re happy to help, so give us a call at 800-625-6448. We also welcome your thoughts on topics we might cover in our free 2019 i3 webinar series. We be announcing the list soon.
Our next step in this series addresses more codes—ones of the building variety.