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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 ?
In Euclid, the Supreme Court found zoning laws to be a legitimate use of the police power so long as an action was in promotion of health, safety, morals, or general welfare.
If, however, a neighbor complains and we have not complied with zoning laws and do not have a necessary business license, we may be forbidden from teaching in our home ever again.
During this review I learned a great deal about how our zoning laws are behind the curve.
Last month, the city filed a lawsuit against the business, alleging it was violating city zoning laws by being located within 500 feet of residential areas.
No matter what type of home business you plan to start, you could find yourself shut down if you don't check the zoning laws in your area first.
Zine, who has tried to close the club since his election in 2001, said his efforts are designed to uphold city zoning laws that restrict the locations of adult entertainment.
Perhaps the DeKalb County victory will set a precedent for the repeal of restrictive zoning laws in other communities.
According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Stacey Ford had to shell out $40,000 to have some giant cranes move her Stanwood, Washington, house just three feet after the next-door neighbor alerted authorities that the 20-year-old structure violated local zoning laws.
Land developers say that the need to comply with environmental requirements, zoning laws, and delays in putting the necessary infrastructure in place - roads, water, electricity and sewer lines - limits residential lot development and thus the number of area houses being built.
Menary was also convicted of violating zoning laws at Menary's Pony Riding Academy on Tampa Avenue in Reseda and at a pumpkin patch she owned in Winnetka.
After a chance meeting that led him to Weisman in 1968, the pair began their own real estate firm, P & J Realty Management and went on to became known as innovators in the real estate industry, utilizing new zoning laws at the time to turn former warehouses and manufacturing buildings in lower Manhattan into residential buildings.