Why Zoning is Important

zoningZoning is the process of dividing land in a municipality into zones (e.g. residential, industrial) in which certain land uses are permitted or prohibited.

In addition, the sizes, bulk, and placement of buildings may be regulated. The type of zone determines whether planning permission for a given development is granted. Zoning may specify a variety of outright and conditional uses of land. It may also indicate the size and dimensions of land area as well as the form and scale of buildings. These guidelines are set in order to guide urban growth and development.

Zoning refers to municipal or local government laws that dictate how real property can and cannot be used in certain areas. The primary purpose of zoning is to segregate uses that are thought to be compatible. In practice, zoning also is used to prevent new development from interfering with existing uses and /or to preserve the character of a community. However, it has not always been an effective method for achieving this goal. Zoning is commonly controlled by local governments such as counties or municipalities, though the nature of the zoning regime may be determined or limited by state or national planning authorities or through enabling legislation.

Zoning laws can limit commercial use of land in order to prevent oil, manufacturing or other types of businesses from building in residential neighborhoods. These laws can be modified or suspended if construction of the property will serve to help the community advance economically.

Zoning outlines what types of developmental and operational use of land is allowed on a given tract. Municipalities tend to partition districts and neighborhoods according to a master plan. This may be done to control the flow of traffic, manage noise levels, reserve living space for residents and to protect certain resources.

Examples of zoning classifications include industrial, light industrial, commercial, light commercial, agricultural, single-family residential, multi-unit residential and schools.

Why Governments Apply Zoning to Structure Real Estate Usage

Local government might ban the use of residential property for business purposes to keep commercial activity confined to specific parts of town. Such zoning can lead to conflicts if residents dispute the designated usage.

Zoning laws can also regulate the details of construction in specific neighborhoods. For example, zoning can limit the maximum height of buildings in a given area regardless of the type of construction allowed. High-rise residences or offices could be banned on particular parcels through zoning regardless if the buildings otherwise comply with the laws.

The presence of zoning restrictions can influence prices when purchasing a piece of property. Real estate might sell at a premium based on how many limits were put in place by the municipality.

Zoning Types

In the United States residential zones can have the following sub-categories:

– Residential occupancies containing sleeping units where the occupants are primarily transient in nature, including: boarding houses, hotels, motels
– Residential occupancies containing sleeping units or more than two dwelling units where the occupants are primarily permanent in nature, including: apartment houses, boarding houses, convents, dormitories.
– Residential occupancies where the occupants are primarily permanent in nature and not classified as Group R-1, R-2, R-4 or I, including: buildings that do not contain more than two dwelling units, adult care facilities for five or fewer persons for less than 24 hours.
– Residential occupancies where the buildings are arranged for occupancy as residential care/assisted living facilities including more than five but not more than 16 occupants.

Conditional zoning allows for increased flexibility and permits municipalities to respond to the unique features of a particular land use application. Uses which might be disallowed under current zoning, such as a school or a community center can be permitted via conditional use zoning.

In 1926, the Supreme Court ruled that properly drawn zoning ordinances were a valid exercise of the states’ governing power. Zoning became constitutional by the U.S. supreme court as a result of the case Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365, 395 (1926).

Criticisms of zoning laws claim that the practice creates and widens the disparity of quality of life between socioeconomic groups. For example, a township might maintain zoning laws that restrict heavy industrial and commercial development to tracts of land adjacent to lower income neighborhoods. The effects of such policies would let more affluent parts of town avoid the associated noise and pollution.

Alterations to zoning laws are possible even without full repeals of the current legislation. A developer or property owner can apply for variances that would allow certain exceptions to zoning regulations. This would let property be used in ways generally not permitted. For example, the owner of a home-based business might request a variance to allow the operations to continue. Applicants for variances might be required to explain why the variance is needed and how the change will not cause significant disruption or detriment to the surrounding community.

 


 

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