zoning map of Charleston

The City of Charleston controls development by a number of means, one of which is by allowing only certain types of development in certain neighborhoods or street frontages. How a particular plot is zoned will affect not only the purpose for which the property can be used but additionally, the type of development that can be undertaken, and the density of that development. Now Charleston has quite a few designations for these types of Zones. It’s not necessary to know all of them but at least useful to have some appreciation of the basic ones and where to find more information.

The ones we see the most are:

• DR2F – Residential

• LB – Limited Business

• GB – General Business

• MU – Mixed Use

DR2F – this is your standard residential zoning. Lot occupation is limited to a maximum of 50% of the square footage. Properties can often have grandfather rights that allow for variations of the zoning regulations, a typical example would be a property converted many years ago to a duplex and before the area Zoning regulations were in place. These can make for good investments. This is the land of neighborhood, family units, urban city living.

LB – Limited Business. Properties with this designation can be mixed residential and commercial. There are some restrictions of the commercial use, for example the business’s operating hours. There has been recent confusion in the city regarding the use of a “Limited Business ” designation as related to the operation of vacation rentals. An LB Zoning, in the “short-term accommodation overlay, ” is required for a vacation rental to operate legally. Most do not, so best be careful to examine the zoning closely.

GB – General Business. This zoning is limited to the main commercial thoroughfares. It’s the shopping and commercial areas. More or less you can operate any retail establishment from a property zoned this way though you may need additional approvals such as a Liquor License for DHEC (hygiene certificate). We are investigating the viability of an historic event venue on lower East Bay St. that is currently zoned part LB, part GB. The City of Charleston has indicated a willingness to consider fully GB as it fits the overall neighborhood development plan and incidentally would also be very helpful for our intended use post renovation.

MU – Multiple Use is the “Eldorado” of Zoning for the property developer or investor. It allows for a mix of residential and commercial development with up to 100% land occupation of the site. Opportunities for this downtown are limited, though they do exist, and the City may be willing to discuss zoning variances of a good case or cause can be made and you have all said your prayers regularly.

So there you have it, a short introduction to Zoning. There is plenty more information out there, especially on the City of Charleston web site. A word of caution though – be careful in your interpretation, as not all that information is either up to date or accurate. A phone call or two may just save your savings so to speak.

Note: Through all of our construction renovation projects and development we are well versed when it comes to building and zoning ordinances in Charleston. We are here to help at any stage of the process…


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