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0792 Business Zoning

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 792: Business Zoning.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 792. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is eslpod.com. Please go and become a member of ESL Podcast, you’ll be happy you did!

This episode is about the exciting world of business zoning. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Sybil: Oh, this is it! This is the perfect location for our new store!

Leo: Sorry, but this space isn’t zoned for retail. It’s zoned for offices.

Sybil: But couldn’t we get the zoning commission to re-zone it?

Leo: That’s not an easy process. The city’s urban planners decided that this space would be best suited for offices. Changing their minds won’t be easy.

Sybil: I’ve heard that a lot of new developments are being zoned for mixed-use. That’s all we need to do. We just need this building to be re-zoned for mixed-use. Then, we can use the space downstairs for commercial purposes and use the upstairs space for offices or even housing.

Leo: This area was zoned for industrial purposes over 30 years ago. It took 10 years for it to be re-zoned for offices. It may take another 10 years to get it re-zoned for commercial purposes. Do you think you can wait 10 years to open your store?

Sybil: No, I guess not. What if I rented this space for an office and then ran my store out of it?

Leo: You’ll never get a business license for your store if you do that. Each type of zoning has different ordinances and the inspector won’t be fooled.

Sybil: All right. I’ll look for another space, but nothing will live up to this one.

Leo: That’s the spirit!

[end of dialogue]

This episode is about business zoning. A “zone” (zone) is an area or a place; we might use the word “district.” It’s a certain area usually within a larger area, such as a city. This episode talks about “business zoning,” which are the laws that the government has about what kind of buildings you can put in one part of the city, and what buildings you can’t put there. It will become a little more clear as we explain the dialogue, I hope.

The dialogue begins with Sybil saying, “Oh, this is it! This is the perfect location for our new store!” It’s the perfect place for the new store that Sybil and someone else, maybe Leo, is going to open. Leo says, “Sorry, but this space isn’t zoned for retail.” Here, “zone” is used as a verb. “To be zoned” means that the government, usually the local government – the city government permits or allows you to put a certain kind of building or a certain kind of business in this area of the city. In the U.S., in most cities there are certain places in the city where you can have houses and apartments, others where you can have stores, other places where you can have factories – businesses that make things, and so forth. Sometimes you can have all three of those in one area, but not always, and that’s what we mean when we say an area is “zoned for” something. Here, Leo says the space isn’t zoned for retail. “Retail” (retail) is the sale of things, the sale of products and services. Basically, it’s a store that you can go in and buy something from; that’s retail. So this area, the building where Sybil wants to put the new store, isn’t zoned for retail. You cannot put a store there; the city won’t allow you. Leo says, “It’s zoned for offices,” business offices, places that people aren’t coming in to buy things, but places where people work but don’t sell their products right there.

Sybil says, “But couldn’t we get the zoning commission to re-zone it?” The “zoning commission” would be the group of people – the group of government officials that decides whether or not you can have a certain kind of business. They’re the people in the government that decide what can go where in a city. “To re-zone” would mean, of course, to zone again, to change the law so that now you can allow, in this case, retail for that space – for that place.

Leo says, “That’s not an easy process,” meaning re-zoning is not an easy process. “The city’s urban planners decided that this space (this area) would be best suited for offices.” “Urban” (urban) means the city. “Urban planners” are the people who plan cities, who plan where things go. The whole idea of urban planning is something that is popular – has been popular in the United States. Of course, we’re a newer country, and newer areas – newer cities are being built all the time. Well, not so much recently, but in the past 50 years many cities have grown and, therefore, we need a group of people to decide, well, where should certain things in the local area, and that’s what urban planners do. Leo says, “The urban planners decided that this space would be best suited for offices.” The expression “best suited” means most appropriate for, something that would be the best use of this area. He says changing the urban planners’ minds won’t be easy. “To change (someone’s) mind” means to get them to change their idea, to change their opinion.

Sybil says, “I’ve heard that a lot of new developments are being zoned for mixed-use.” The word “development” has a lot of different meanings; it could mean change or growth in something. But here, it’s used as a noun to refer to a group of new buildings, either houses, or offices, or perhaps both. “Mixed-use” means that you have one building that has more than one type of use. Maybe on the top of the building there are apartments, and then on the first floor – what we call in the United States the first floor, which is the ground floor – you may have stores or offices or something else. So you have more than one kind of use in the same building, that would be a mixed-use building or a mixed-use development. “Development” usually refers to a group of buildings, not just one building. Sybil says, “That’s all we need to do. We just need this building to be re-zoned for mixed-use. Then, we can use the space downstairs (the area downstairs) for commercial purposes and use the upstairs (the second, third, fourth floor) for offices or even housing.” “Commercial” refers to business. So what Sybil is saying is that they can have the building re-zoned so that the first floor – the ground floor can be used for her store, which would be a commercial purpose, and the other floors – the upstairs, in this case – could be used for offices or even housing.

But, Leo says, “This area was zoned for industrial purposes over 30 years ago.” The word “industrial” (industrial) refers to making things, producing actual physical goods. It’s a type of commercial activity, but it’s a specific type. It’s one usually involved in manufacturing something – making something, not just selling a service. And, once again, this is sometimes a separate zoning classification. You can only have buildings where people are making things in certain parts of the city. “This area,” Leo says, “was zoned for industrial purposes 30 years ago (over 30 years ago, more than 30 years ago). It took 10 years for it to be re-zoned for offices. It may take another 10 years to get it re-zoned for commercial purposes. Do you think you can wait 10 years to open your store?” Leo is saying it’s going to take a long time to get this re-zoned. Like a lot of things in government, it takes a long time for the government to take action. That’s true with any big institution – any big organization.

Sybil says, “No, I guess not.” I can’t wait 10 years. She says, “What if I rented this space for an office then ran my store out of it?” She’s saying well, I’ll say I’m going to open an office, but in fact I’ll have a store. That’s what she means when she says “run” her store out of it. “To run,” here, means to operate or manage a business. “Out of it” means in that space, in that area.

Leo says, “You’ll never get a business license for your store if you do that.” In most cities, you need a license to have your business there. Basically, it’s a way of the – for the city make you pay taxes for having your business in that city. The license is your permission to work and have a business there. Leo says that Sybil won’t get a business license if she tries to run her store out of a space that is zoned for an office. “Each type of zoning,” he says, “has different ordinances and the inspector won’t be fooled.” An “ordinance” (ordinance) here means a law or a regulation, a rule that the government has. An “inspector” is someone who goes around making sure that businesses are following the law, that they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. “To be fooled” means to trick someone, to make them believe something that isn’t true.

Leo says that the inspector won’t be fooled by Sybil’s idea of running her store out of an office; he won’t allow it, or she won’t allow it. Sybil says, “All right (okay). I’ll look for another space.” Notice we use the word “space” typically when we are talking about an area that you rent or that you own for business purposes. Sometimes people use that word to describe a room in their house or an area in their house; it can be used in a lot of different ways. Sybil says, “I’ll look for another space, but nothing will live up to this one.” “To live up to (something)” is a phrasal expression meaning to be as good as, or to seem as good as or better than. “He lived up to his reputation as a funny person,” meaning he was actually as funny as people said he was; he lived up to that. You could say, “This meal did not live up to my expectations.” I thought this food was going to be better from this restaurant, but it wasn’t.

Of course, Sybil is being pessimistic here; she’s being negative. She doesn’t think any other place will be as good as this one. Leo says, jokingly, “That’s the spirit!” That expression, “that’s the spirit,” is used usually in a sarcastic or ironic way. You would think that “that’s the spirit” would be a positive thing, and it is, that it means that’s the right attitude, you have the right motivation. But it’s usually used when someone’s being negative and you’re sort of making fun of them. “Oh, I’ll never – I’ll never be able to get a date with that beautiful woman,” and your friend says, “Well, that’s the spirit,” meaning, of course, you’re being too negative. You should be positive instead of negative about your chances. Though, probably you – you won’t actually get a date with the beautiful woman, so maybe look somewhere else!

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Sybil: Oh, this is it! This is the perfect location for our new store!

Leo: Sorry, but this space isn’t zoned for retail. It’s zoned for offices.

Sybil: But couldn’t we get the zoning commission to re-zone it?

Leo: That’s not an easy process. The city’s urban planners decided that this space would be best suited for offices. Changing their minds won’t be easy.

Sybil: I’ve heard that a lot of new developments are being zoned for mixed-use. That’s all we need to do. We just need this building to be re-zoned for mixed-use. Then, we can use the space downstairs for commercial purposes and use the upstairs space for offices or even housing.

Leo: This area was zoned for industrial purposes over 30 years ago. It took 10 years for it to be re-zoned for offices. It may take another 10 years to get it re-zoned for commercial purposes. Do you think you can wait 10 years to open your store?

Sybil: No, I guess not. What if I rented this space for an office and then ran my store out of it?

Leo: You’ll never get a business license for your store if you do that. Each type of zoning has different ordinances and the inspector won’t be fooled.

Sybil: All right. I’ll look for another space, but nothing will live up to this one.

Leo: That’s the spirit!

[end of dialogue]

We have the scripts best suited to help you improve your English, all written by the wonderful Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again, won’t you, here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan, copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to be zoned – for a building or an area of land to be designated for a particular purpose, such as farming, housing, offices, stores, or industry

* It’s too bad the area down by the river has been zoned for office buildings. It would have made a beautiful public park.

retail – the sale of products and services to individuals, not to other businesses

* Sharon doesn’t have much experience in retail marketing. She has always worked for software companies that sell their products to other businesses.

zoning commission – the government organization or committee responsible for deciding how different areas of land should be used

* They’re asking the zoning commission to let them turn their house into a store.

urban planner – a person whose job is to help a city grow in a way that is good for people and the economy

* Most urban planners agree that cities work better when people live in apartment buildings downtown, not in homes far from the center.

best suited – most appropriate for; best used for; ideally positioned for

* With his talents in mathematics, he’s best suited for a career in science or engineering.

development – a group of new houses or offices that are built in one place at the same time in a similar (or identical) style

* Homes in this new development start at just $180,000.

mixed-use – an area of land that can be used for many purposes, such as a combination of residences (homes) and retail stores, or heavy industry and office buildings

* Mixed-use neighborhoods create more interesting, functional cities.

commercial – related to business; related to buying and selling products and services

* The organization is nonprofit, so it doesn’t take part in commercial activities.

housing – residences; homes; buildings where people live, or the act of providing homes for people to live in

* The average cost of housing is much higher in California than in Nebraska.

industrial – related to manufacturing and production of goods and services in large quantities, usually in a factory

* The government needs to do a better job of regulating industrial activities to make sure they aren’t polluting the air and water of those living nearby.

to run – to operate or manage a business; to implement and control a program

* When we started this company, we had to run it out of our garage.

business license – official permission or authorization from the government to have and operate a business

* The Small Business Development Center helps entrepreneurs get a business license.

ordinance – a law, regulation, or rule, especially from a city or county government

* The city passed an ordinance against skateboarding on the sidewalks.

inspector – a person whose job is to examine a place of business to make sure it complies with (follows) the laws

* How often do inspectors go into restaurant kitchens to make sure they’re clean?

to fool – to trick someone; to make someone believe something that is not true

* Yolanda has been really friendly lately, but she isn’t fooling me. I know she just wants to get the promotion.

to live up to – to be as good as; to seem as good as or better than

* We had the best vacation! I doubt anything we do in the future will be able to live up to that trip.

that’s the spirit – a phrase used sarcastically when someone is being pessimistic (expecting the worst) and/or had a negative attitude that will make it difficult or impossible to succeed

* A: There’s no way I’ll be able to pass the exam. It’s just too hard.

* B: That’s the spirit.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why doesn’t Leo think this is a good location for the store?
a) Because it isn’t big enough.
b) Because customers won’t want to go there.
c) Because it cannot be used for retail activities.

2. What does Leo mean when he says, “The inspector won’t be fooled”?
a) The inspector will understand what’s really happening.
b) The inspector will be very angry when he sees what Sybil is doing.
c) The inspector won’t be familiar with the ordinances.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
zone

The phrase “to be zoned,” in this podcast, means for a building or an area of land to be designated for a particular purpose, such as farming, housing, offices, stores, or industry: “Builders want this area to be zoned for housing so that they can build and sell new condos here.” The phrase “to zone out” means to daydream or to stop paying attention because one is thinking about something else, possibly because one is very tired: “The teacher became very frustrated when he saw his students zoning out during class.” Finally, the phrase “comfort zone” refers to the things that one feels comfortable doing and do not create risks or require doing something new: “Even though it was outside of his comfort zone, Chency agreed to go bungee jumping.”

to live up to

In this podcast, the phrase “to live up to” means to be as good as something, or to seem as good as or better than something. “The movie is good, but it doesn’t live up to the book.” The phrase “to live it up” means to have a lot of fun, doing things that are interesting and entertaining, usually spending a lot of money: “They really lived it up in New York City, eating at the finest restaurants and watching the best Broadway shows.” Finally, the phrase “to not [be able to] live (something) down” means for people to remember something embarrassing or shameful and never forget it: “That was such an embarrassing interview on TV! She’ll never be able to live it down.”

Culture Note
Eminent Domain

“Eminent domain” describes the government’s ability to “seize” (take without permission) “property” (land or buildings) that were owned by individuals without their “consent” (agreement). The individuals receive “monetary compensation” (a payment of money) and the property is then used for some “public good” (something that benefits society). In most cases, the government must try to “purchase” (buy) the property before “invoking” (using or applying a law) eminent domain.

Normally eminent domain “comes into play” (is used) for public development projects. For example, a railroad company might need access to land to lay down straight “tracks” (the long pieces of metal a train travels on top of). It would be expensive and inefficient for the companies to lay tracks around the private property, so if the owner does not want to sell, the government can “intervene” (become involved) and “invoke” eminent domain.

Sometimes the government invokes eminent domain to protect the safety of “citizens” (the people belonging to a particular country), as it did in the City of Centralia, Pennsylvania. Today, Centralia is a “ghost town” (a town with few or no residents), but it used to be a town with more than 2,000 residents and a lot of “coal” (a black rock that is burned to create energy) “mining” (the removal of valuable minerals or stones from underground) activity. A very hot fire began burning through the mines throughout the 1960s and 1970s, creating a lot of “poisonous” (dangerous and/or deadly) gases and dangerous “sinkholes” (holes in the earth made when the rocks underneath “dissolve” (become liquid)).

In 1984, the U.S. government paid more than $42 million to purchase properties and “relocate” (move to a different place) the families of Centralia. In 1992, the State of Pennsylvania invoked eminent domain and “condemned” (said a building was not safe) the buildings.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - a