A Guide to Opening Your Business in Scotch Plains


Business owners should choose Scotch Plains as their location to open their business. We love welcoming new businesses to our town, and you can expect to find a positive environment where business investments are encouraged and appreciated.   


If you’re interested in opening a business in the Township of Scotch Plains, please contact Bob LaCosta, Construction/Zoning Officer, at (908)-322-6700 ext. 308 or blacosta@scotchplainsnj.com. The Building Department is open between 8:30am to 4:00pm Monday thru Friday. Contact Mr. LaCosta to schedule an appointment to ensure adequate time can be spent reviewing your proposal.   


If you’re contemplating any proposed business or business development in any of the commercial zones, it is highly recommended that you make an appointment with Mr. LaCosta to review all of your proposals so that he can advise you accordingly. Even though the general criteria is outlined below, there are often some questions that come up, specific to your proposed business and operation. 


Thank you for choosing Scotch Plains!  

Opening a Business in an Already Developed Retail or Office Space

If you’re planning to open a business in already-developed retail or office space, there are two (2) avenues one can take. For example, if you are going to utilize existing office space for a real estate agency and you’re planning to place or install furniture, then there is probably little or nothing you need to do regarding plans and the issuance of permits – other than obtaining a sign permit. Sign regulations can be found under Section 23-7, Signs of the Township’s Ordinances.  

Opening a Business in a Zone Where Your Business is Not a Permitted Use

The second avenue involves moving into existing space AND your desired business is not a permitted business in the zone. In that case, an application would have to be made to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a Use Variance. Should you proceed with a Use Variance at the Zoning Board of Adjustment and you are either a corporation or an LLC in the State of New Jersey at the time of your application, you will need  to be represented by an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of New Jersey. This is not the law of the Township of Scotch Plains – this is the law of the State of New Jersey. Applications made to the Zoning Board of Adjustment generally take approximately ninety (90) days. Therefore, please factor this into any decision making you are contemplating relative to (hopefully) obtaining an approval, AND the opening of your business.

Opening a Food Establishment

If you’re planning on opening a food establishment, first and foremost you need to speak with our Health Officer, De Zheng, at 732-827-2099, or via email at dzheng@cityofrahway.com, who handles, and will inform you, as to the requirements for a food-handling business, or any type of business which sells or prepares foods.  If you’re  proposing a strictly “take out” food establishment which will not involve seating, the process is less restrictive inasmuch as it will not involve a calculation made for staff and patron seating.  Once again, patron seating in existing space is limited based upon the existing square footage of the space to be occupied; and the parking requirements which are associated with that already-developed space. 


If you’re contemplating a food establishment which will have increased numbers of seating (tables and chairs) and inadequate parking, then an application will be required to be made to the Planning Board for a Parking Variance.  Again, you will need to follow the same requirements  as the Zoning Board of Adjustment relative to operating as an LLC or as a corporation by having representation from an attorney licensed to practice in the State of New Jersey.  In addition, there may be a sanitary sewer usage charge for the increased flow from an office to a retail, or a retail space with the inclusion of seating consisting of tables and chairs. 


Major interior renovations require plans prepared by an architect licensed in the State of New Jersey and filed with the necessary construction permit applications which are available in the Building Department for review and release.  Until such times as adequate plans are received and processed, no work may commence in the newly-proposed, altered space.

New Construction

If you’re proposing new construction from the ground up, with a permitted use in the zone, your application will have to be made to the Planning Board. That application will consist of plans professionally prepared by an architect and an engineer, both licensed to practice in the State of New Jersey. The specifications for a Site Plan are outlined in Chapter 19 of the Township’s Ordinances, as well other documents such as, but not limited to: 

  • Land Use Check List 
  • Environmental Impact Statements 
  • Lighting 
  • Drainage 
  • Traffic 
  • Retention/Detention

Once again, if this is a permitted use, your application will be made to the Planning Board.  There are fees associated with such an application, e.g. the application fee itself which is based upon the type of business, square footage of the building, as well as the establishment of an escrow account for professional review by the township’s professionals.   


All applications undergo completeness review before being scheduled for a public hearing. At the time the application is scheduled, you will be provided with a packet from the Land Use Secretary, Shannon Rapant. The packet will provide the instructions for the Notice, in order to complete the process and have the public hearing, and get a final determination from the Board (either approval or denial). 


The same process would be required should you be pursuing a use not allowed in the zone.  In that case you would be making the application to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and the details are all the same as previously mentioned for the Planning Board. The Zoning Board of Adjustment has the ability to review a Site Plan and Use Variance at the same time. Obviously, if your Use Variance is denied there is no need for a Site Plan.  A Use Variance approval at the Zoning Board of Adjustment requires five (5) affirmative votes out of seven (7).  

Conditions of Approval

Once your application is approved at the Zoning Board of Adjustment and/or Planning Board, there are Conditions of Approval. These conditions may include the posting of a performance guarantee and inspection escrow. After those Conditions of Approval are met and approved, then will you be eligible to obtain the necessary construction permits to develop your site, and build your building.   


A Certificate of Occupancy will be granted once your building is completed and final inspections are passed and all site improvements are met.  The Township will still hold a bond or cash Maintenance Guarantee relative to the performance of the site to ensure that such items such as lighting, landscaping, and other improvement which you installed are functioning and growing as required prior to the return of the Maintenance Guarantee. 


An applicant shall submit a written request (hard copy with signature) to release any remaining escrow, a performance guarantee or maintenance guarantee.  An inspection shall be performed by the Township Engineer and a recommendation be made prior to the release of funds.

Welcoming Your New Business & Ribbon Cutting

Once you receive final approval and are ready to open your new business, please contact Margaret Heisey, Deputy Township Manager at (908) 322-6700 ext. 314 or mheisey@scotchplainsnj.com and/or Tom Strowe, Project Coordinator for Redevelopment at (908) 322-6700 ext. 317 or tstrowe@scotchplainsnj.com to schedule a ribbon cutting.   


Township Officials, including the Mayor and Township Council, would love to join you in opening your new business in Scotch Plains. In addition to a ribbon cutting, we will also take photos and film a video for our Facebook page to help promote your business and let our residents know that you are part of the Scotch Plains Community.


We will also invite the local press and business organizations to welcome you and cover your opening.   We look forward to scheduling your ribbon cutting!

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