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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 ?
Hold off: Although the lawsuit appears far from resolved, lawyers agreed in court yesterday to put the legal dispute aside for now while the adult zoning law is in flux.
I feel it is important that the new review of our zoning laws be done in a compact period of time.
With ability to relocate to places with more hospitable legal institutions, weak zoning laws play a key role in the land use decisionmaking process.
Zoning laws prevent mass merchants from moving into the area.
However, the newspaper noted that the city's zoning laws only allow storage tanks of 100,000 to 400,000 gallons.
Zoning laws: Zoning laws exist to protect a community from unwanted development.
Also make sure that you understand your county or city zoning laws before signing on the dotted line, he adds, as you don't want to find out later that the location wasn't zoned for your type of business.
According to The Wanderer, a Catholic weekly, the college in Michigan had encountered trouble expanding because of zoning laws, so Monaghan opened Ave Maria University in Naples.
In the West, paradoxically, zoning laws were the last line of defence against the egotistical urges of private landowners.
Finally, cities also will use FTB information to enforce zoning laws, such as those banning home occupations in residential neighborhoods.
The city's plan and housing commissions established a subcommittee to examine research, consult with experts and discuss how similar communities have updated their zoning laws.
In their effort to enact zoning laws in one of only four Nebraska counties without them, the group has run headlong into an old-boy network: Their pro-zoning ads were rejected by the local radio station and newspaper.