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Zoning laws land golf complex in the rough

Before you can open a business in a particular location, you must first ensure that the area is zoned appropriately. However, even if the city approves your plans and says you can move forward with your plans, objections can arise and threaten the future of your business.

This is the situation currently preventing a Dallas-based golf entertainment complex company from opening a location in another state. After receiving permission from the city to build a 65,000-square-foot complex, Topgolf learned that a district judge sided with a resident in a lawsuit asserting that the project had been miscategorized.

According to reports, numerous residents in the area where the proposed complex was set to open objected to the project. They cited several concerns, including excessive noise and lighting as well as posing a threat to local birds.

One of the residents filed a lawsuit opposing the business, and the judge reviewing the case found that Topgolf had been miscategorized as a private business. The city evidently failed to comply with its own zoning laws when approving the project, as public businesses cannot operate legally in the space.

The lawsuit brought more scrutiny into the categorization by challenging the membership card required to hit balls at the complex. While Topgolf and the city argued that the card made the venue private, the resident said that the membership requirement was "nominal" and did not make the facility private.

This case should be a reminder to business owners here in Houston of how crucial it is to comply with zoning laws when seeking commercial space. It might also serve as a cautionary tale of what can happen when residents and other business owners in the area take issue with the opening of a business.

To address and resolve issues in either situation, it can be a wise decision to have the help and guidance of an experienced commercial real estate attorney throughout the course of any transaction.

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