Why Zoning Laws are Anti-Innovation

With governments abuzz about promoting innovation, one easy solution would be to simplify zoning laws.  In talking with a friend yesterday, I realized that zoning laws discourage innovation in at least three distinct ways:

  1. Zoning laws require you to assign your business to one of the categories that government regulators have devised. (My friend, for example, had to call his dance school a “dance hall,” although they never held receptions there.) This gives business owners an incentive to stick with traditional types of businesses, lest they face unnecessary delay or failure in obtaining a license.
  2. Zoning laws make it difficult to change categories.  If your business is failing and you want to try something new, you are discouraged from doing so by all the necessary paperwork, fees, and time. Plus, depending on your location, the new license may not even be available.
  3. Obtaining multiple licenses makes the process even harder. And again, it may be difficult to find a property where all the licenses are available.

So while I appreciate that there isn’t a hip hop club blasting music at 3 a.m. near my apartment, I’d be happy to see looser zoning regulations that don’t create headaches for our business owners and innovators.