Take the Pain Out of Site Selection with OpenCounter’s ZoningCheck

Quick — what’s the NAICS code for a bakery in your city? How about the land use code? The occupancy classification?

Even the most seasoned planner may need to refer to their city’s zoning or building codes for that information. So how are entrepreneurs supposed to determine these codes, which are critical to opening a new business in their community? Finding this information typically involves poring through dense, hard-to-understand materials supplied by the city, which usually results in no clear answers and an exasperated trip to City Hall.

But what if constituents were empowered to retrieve this information themselves? And what if, for every use code, constituents could see a map of exactly where in the city that business type is allowed? How would that transform their ability to open new businesses and contribute to the economic development of their community? And how would that benefit your teams who spend thousands or tens of thousands of hours every year answering these type of questions?

With OpenCounter’s ZoningCheck™ solution, the benefits are crystal clear. Because when applicants can quickly and easily see where in the city their use is allowed, it results in far fewer calls, emails, and in-person inquiries for your staff to handle. And once city teams aren’t plagued with inquiries about hypothetical or potential scenarios, they’re free to focus on actual projects driving real business development and revenue in your city.

Here are four ways OpenCounter’s ZoningCheck makes that happen.

Intelligent Land Use Search

Say you’re looking to open a pizza shop. You refer to your city’s zoning codes to gauge where that business would be permitted. You look up “pizza parlor” — no results. Then you try “restaurant” — again, nothing.

Confused and frustrated, your last resort is to reach out to City Hall. Several days pass and you finally hear back: Your business isn’t a pizza shop, a pizza parlor, or even a restaurant. In the city’s zoning terms it’s an “eating or drinking establishment.”

With OpenCounter’s ZoningCheck, that discovery process takes seconds, not days or weeks. Our intelligent use code search means applicants can enter everyday terms — like “yoga studio,” “bookstore,” or, yes, “pizza parlor” — and quickly retrieve a list of relevant land use codes.

No more trying to decode the planning department’s specific terminology — with OpenCounter, we’ve translated those terms into informal, natural language. (Learn how we do that over here.)

Intuitive, Interactive Zoning Maps

Most cities offer a static zoning map online, but in OpenCounter, we tailor the zoning map according to the land use code a user selects. Someone looking to open a wine bar will quickly see where in their city that type of establishment is either allowed by right, conditionally allowable, or prohibited.

A lot of the time, though, more questions need to be answered to refine the search and determine a specific parcel’s zoning clearance:

  • Will the wine bar will serve food?
  • Will it have live entertainment on the weekends?
  • Will it offer a wider array of alcohol than beer and wine?

These questions usually appear as footnotes in the zoning code. But because they can have a huge impact on a parcel’s zoning clearance, OpenCounter takes the time to model even this level of detail in our ZoningCheck solution. We precalculate the zoning clearance for every parcel in the city against every use in the city, resulting in every possible combination of answers needed for these footnote questions.

Plus, as the applicant answers each use-specific question, OpenCounter’s zoning map updates in real-time. And once the applicant selects a specific parcel, they can learn a lot more about the location, including its base zoning, overlay districts, and other key information.

Comprehensive ArcGIS Integration

To ensure all of the data in ZoningCheck is up-to-date, our technology pulls zone, district, and overlay geometry directly from your city’s Esri ArcGIS REST API endpoint. So any time a change is made in ArcGIS, the new data makes its way to ZoningCheck.

Best of all, OpenCounter’s portal simplifies all of the complex regulations and geometry and produces an easy-to-read project summary for the applicant. It explains the layers of regulation triggered at the selected parcel and links out to any related zoning ordinances or development standards — all of which can be downloaded as a PDF, making it easy to share those details with architects, partners, lawyers, and bankers.

Localization in 36+ Languages

We want to make sure our products are as diverse as your city’s people. That’s why OpenCounter’s solutions can be translated into 36+ languages — from Spanish and Chinese to Ukrainian and Vietnamese — to ensure everyone in your community can contribute to its economic development.

OpenCounter: Your Zoning and Permitting Partner

OpenCounter has become the virtual permitting counter for municipalities across the country — from Cincinnati to Miami and from Detroit to Fort Worth. That’s because our suite of portals makes it easy for everyone to understand all of the requirements for their project, from zoning requirements to permit discovery to fee estimates to how to apply.

What can that mean for your city? Increased business development and, therefore, increased revenue growth.

Plus, our products are backed by a team of public sector experts — people with deep knowledge of all things zoning, permitting, and licensing, who partner with our clients to guarantee the best outcome for each and every engagement. We know how complex these processes are, the headaches and inefficiencies they cause for your team, and how exactly to ease those burdens.

See for yourself how OpenCounter can modernize your zoning, permitting, and licensing systems, leading to greater staff efficiency and happier citizens. Get in touch and schedule a discovery session with us today.