All About Zoning Regulations

What Is a Zoning Regulation?

Zoning laws, or zoning ordinances, regulate the use of land and the structures placed upon it. They dictate lot sizes, what kinds of structures can be built or replaced, where they can be located, and whether or not an existing building can be rezoned for a different purpose (commercial, residential, agricultural, etc.). They can also outline additional restrictions that can occur on the lot, such as building height requirements, the location of utility lines, restrictions on ancillary buildings, such as how far they must be located from the property line, and the number of rooms allowed.

What Else Do Zoning Regulations Cover?

Existing zoning regulations not only control existing buildings, but are also enacted to guide future development. They are incorporated into the community’s comprehensive or master plan. There are restrictions on how the local government can regulate land use, and cities must have a process for challenging any restrictions.

What Is the Reasoning Behind These Regulations?

When governments create zoning regulations, they should ensure that the zoning laws work in the best interests of the people of the community, including:

  • Protecting their interests in relation to the value and enjoyment of properties
  • Minimizing potentially negative impacts (property depreciation)
  • Providing adequate infrastructure
  • Providing for orderly development
  • Ensuring appropriate land use given its location and surrounding uses

Zoning Regulations Generally Address Three Distinct Elements:

  • The identification and regulation of the use of an identified district (commercial, residential)
  • Performance standards that apply to all districts (parking, noise, etc.)
  • A section that outlines the procedures for requests such as a conditional use permit or the approval/denial of rezoning

Comprehensive information on a community’s zoning regulations can be acquired by contacting the city’s planning staff or planning commissions.

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