Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Idioms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to zoning: Zoning ordinance, Zoning Map


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 ?
True free market thinkers believe zoning is unnecessary because it artificially overrides basic capitalistic economics that dictate that land should always be utilized to its highest and best use for the benefit of owners, consumers, and the general economy.
Further, they point to the clear evidence that traditional zoning has promoted urban sprawl, segregated housing, and isolated middle class and wealthy residential enclaves.
Zoning facilitates implementation of heterogeneous networks.
In mixed platform environments, Zoning allows NT and Unix systems to have exclusive access to their respective storage arrays and share a tape backup subsystem on the same switch.
As interesting as the voters' rejection of zoning is where the decisive opposition came from: low-income residents.
The handbook details and illustrates recent changes to the zoning, including mixed-use districts and new contextual zoning districts that have been developed to manage growth and preserve the character of neighborhoods; and it clearly describes new special districts, such as Hudson Yards, with enhanced inclusionary zoning to help promote construction of affordable housing.
The basic development unit in New York is the zoning lot.
In this case, it appears that the Appellate Division substituted its own judgment for the contrary but equally reasonable determination of the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Architects in general are concerned that the stricter zoning puts more restrictions on design," said Costas Kondylis, an architect known for his many residential buildings and his skill at laying out apartment units.
No zoning, no closing" has increasingly become that mantra of many of today's CMBS lenders, and more recently with respect to multifamily as well as commercial properties.
The present Zoning Resolution of the City of New York, like most zoning ordinances, does not explicitly distinguish between use and area variances.
3) Whether the proposed Plan is consistent with other Charter-based city plans or policies, including the Ten Year Capital Strategy, the Zoning and Planning Report, the borough and mayoral Strategic Policy Statements and any other pertinent adopted Plan.