Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we’ll discuss Conditional Use Permits (CUP) and what to be aware of when looking for space. Conditional Use Permits allow for different types of uses to be allowed in certain zoning districts, so long as they are beneficial or desirable to the city. This flexibility means that businesses can apply and the city can approve the use as long as it meets certain “conditions”.
Often CUP’s take much more time than conventional approved uses and the city can require the business to do a lot to prove that they will be beneficial to the neighborhood. The city can require traffic studies, times of operation, number of employees and even signage and landscaping. It can be a cumbersome process depending upon the city and also how much impact the business can have on the area.
If you are looking at space that requires your use obtain a CUP, be aware of the following:
Additional time to obtain the CUP. Make sure that you include ample time in your offer to obtain the permit. The CUP process can takes upwards of 3-6 months, so have a contingency in the purchase agreement or lease that allows you to pull out of the deal if you can’t get it. We had a situation where a church group (not represented by us) purchased a building only to find out that they could not get their use approved. They ended up doing a fire sale on the property and lost a lot of the church’s money. Don’t do that. Make sure you have contingencies and time in case things go wrong.
Be prepared for a lot of questions. In addition to filling out a survey, you may be required to meet with the planning commission to discuss your use. It’s helpful to have many of the questions answered before the meeting. This will show that you are prepared and have thought through the business plan. Have plans done ahead of time, including architectural, landscaping, and operational procedures. Be prepared to back up your answers.
Negotiate. Many business owners think that they simply have to do what the city tells them. In some instances this is true, however I have found that many planners will listen to concerns. Cities will often push to get as much done as possible, but understand that they will relent on certain things if the cost is prohibitive. In another instance, we had a bus tour company filing for a CUP. The city initially wanted them to install a sidewalk in a very industrial area with no connecting sidewalks on either side. We were successful in pushing back on that and saved them approximately $70,000.
The CUP process can be daunting and frustrating at times, but utilizing some of the ideas above can save you some headaches. Make sure to work with a broker and discuss your business. Having someone knowledgeable in the CUP process can save you time and money.