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Zoning laws can be the make-or-break factor in commercial real estate transactions. For businesses in the Greater Harrisburg area, understanding the local zoning ordinances is crucial to selecting the right property for your enterprise. The Bill Gladstone Group of NAI CIR has been navigating the complexities of these regulations for years, ensuring that our clients make informed decisions that align with their business objectives and comply with local laws. 

Here’s a deep dive into understanding zoning in the context of commercial real estate in the Greater Harrisburg, PA area.

The Basics of Zoning

Zoning refers to municipal or local government laws that dictate how a piece of property can be used. These regulations are designed to separate incompatible land uses like industrial from residential, thereby creating a harmonious community. In Harrisburg, as in other cities, zoning laws can impact factors such as building height, density, lot coverage, and the types of activities that can be conducted on a property.

Key Zoning Classifications in Harrisburg

The Greater Harrisburg area’s zoning classifications are fairly standard, with zones typically designated as residential, commercial, industrial, or mixed-use. Each classification may have subcategories with additional regulations. For instance, commercial zones can be divided into retail, office, or service-oriented businesses. Knowing the zone of your potential property is the first step in determining if your business can legally operate there.

Zoning and Property Value

Zoning laws can significantly impact property values. For example, a property zoned for commercial use generally has a higher market value than one zoned for residential use due to the potential for income generation. However, if a commercial property is rezoned for residential use, its value might decrease if the income potential is diminished.

Navigating Zoning Changes and Variances

Sometimes, a property may be perfect for your business but not zoned correctly for your intended use. In such cases, you can apply for a zoning change or a variance. A zoning change is a long process that usually requires approval from several government bodies and may involve public hearings. A variance is a one-time exception to the zoning code and is often quicker to obtain. Both processes can be complex, and the success rate varies, which is why professional guidance is crucial.

The Role of Comprehensive Plans

Most municipalities have a comprehensive plan that outlines long-term goals for growth and development. These plans can provide insight into potential zoning changes and can influence where you may want to invest in commercial real estate. For instance, if Harrisburg’s comprehensive plan indicates a push for more industrial development in a particular area, it might be wise to invest in commercial real estate that could be rezoned to industrial in the future.

Zoning and Environmental Regulations

In addition to zoning, environmental regulations can affect the usability of commercial real estate. Harrisburg’s proximity to the Susquehanna River means that certain properties may be subject to additional floodplain regulations. It’s important to consider such regulations as they can restrict building designs and uses.

The Importance of Due Diligence

Before purchasing commercial real estate, conducting thorough due diligence is essential. This includes a zoning analysis, which can help you understand all the potential legal and regulatory constraints on property usage. The Bill Gladstone Group provides expert due diligence services to help our clients navigate these complexities.


Understanding zoning is vital for any commercial real estate investment or business operation. In the Greater Harrisburg area, these regulations can dictate your property’s potential and profitability. By working with The Bill Gladstone Group, you can gain the expertise needed to navigate zoning regulations confidently. Whether it’s identifying the best property for your needs or assisting with a zoning change or variance, our team is equipped to guide you through every step of the process, ensuring that your business is both compliant and positioned for success.