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Laws at the municipal level regulating the uses of real property in certain areas. For example, land in a certain area may be zoned only for commercial use or residential use. Zoning laws exist to improve the quality of life in a local area; for instance, they guard against an oil refinery being placed in an area where families with children live. Depending on the laws of the municipality, zoning laws may be suspended at certain times for certain developments, especially those likely to result in an economic boon for the community.


The regulation of the uses of property; the density of populations employing those uses; and the kinds,sizes,and proportions of structures that can be erected on property.Zoning was first put into place in New York City in 1916 as a reaction against the construction of the Equitable Building, because its 41-story height cast shadows over neighboring residences and affected people's quality of life.The concept soon caught on and was enacted by nearly every city and town in America as a function of their police power. Today, Houston,Texas, is the only major American city with no zoning regulations at all.

• Acurrent use of property that is no longer permitted after a zoning change may be allowed to continue for some period of time. Purchasers of such properties should make sure the use will still be allowed, if that is important. Purchasers of nearby properties should not make assumptions about zoning merely because of what already exists nearby.

• Zoning variances—permission for nonconforming uses—are typically granted only if it would be a hardship on the property to do otherwise. An economic hardship on the owner is irrelevant. Hardship is usually found only when the property has no other practical use other than the one planned and there is a need in the community for that use.

• Zoning variances, when granted, usually contain some requirements not otherwise demanded of other property owners, including such things as facade renovation of an older building, the necessity for off-street parking, or any number of other demands.

• Euclidean zoning, also known as building block zoning, is the most common. It is named for the town of Euclid, Ohio, which provided the test case for Supreme Court review and confirmation as constitutional. Land is divided into specific geographical districts with permitted uses within each type of district. Districts are usually designated R1 for single-family residential, R2 for two-family homes, R3 for multifamily, and so on. Its proponents like the long history of interpretation and the ease of implementation. Its critics say it lacks flexibility and fossilizes outdated theories of land-use planning.

• Performance zoning uses goal-oriented criteria to establish guidelines for the intensity of land use and the impact on infrastructure and on surrounding areas. It employs four major concepts: open-space ratio, impervious surface ratio (roads and parking lots), floor area ratio, and density. Zoning districts have descriptions such as wilderness districts, agricultural districts, and development districts. Proponents like the flexibility, but critics say the system is too complicated.

• Incentive zoning is a rewards-based system that seeks to encourage development to meet a city's needs. The system starts with standard restrictions on building size and height and occupancy densities, and then offers bonuses if developers will include needed amenities such as low-income housing, transit access, or beautification features. By agreeing to the bonus items, the developer may increase the densities or gain other variances.

• Design-based zoning is used in newer mixed-use urban planning models. It concentrates on building design and compatibility in an area rather than specific uses. Zoning districts might be called traditional neighborhood, suburban neighborhood, or transit-oriented development.

References in periodicals archive ?
127) Since zoning ordinances are in derogation of common law and interfere with the free use of land by its owner, they must be strictly construed against the zoning authority.
Today's complaint seeks an order prohibiting future discrimination including any action to enforce the local zoning ordinance in a discriminatory manner, compensatory and punitive damages and civil penalties of up to $50,000 as provided in the law.
The New York City zoning authorities have been dynamically rewriting zoning ordinances over the past five years, creating new waterfront neighborhoods, as well as protecting existing residential communities from higher density development.
This interpretation would exclude popular zoning ordinances.
LEOMINSTER - City Council voted Monday night to give further time to a petition to amend the city's zoning ordinance with regard to mixed-use.
General Growth bankrolled the petition drive that began in late April, shortly after the City Council approved zoning ordinances for the center in downtown Glendale adjacent to the Galleria.
It will insure lenders against a loss between the loan balance on the date of a property damage loss from an insured peril and the total insurance proceeds received due to property damage, if the same size building cannot be rebuilt due to zoning ordinances on the date of the property damage.
Such an endeavor builds a bridge between planning and urban design--something I believe is often lost through raw interpretation of zoning ordinances.
In 1992, residents tried to prevent a group home for handicapped children on the grounds that it would violate zoning ordinances restricting the number of unrelated people allowed to live in a single home.
If opponents gather enough valid signatures, three zoning ordinances adopted last Tuesday would be immediately suspended.