Zoning is the regulation of private land use and development by local government. There are no federal zoning laws.
Zoning is an essential part of the master plan. A master plan is a comprehensive plan to guide the long-term physical development of a particular area.
Zoning increases the marketability of the property. For example, would you want to live next to a gas station? Well, a gas station would not want to be near you either. Luckily there is zoning.
Zoning is a police power. Do not think of officers in blue when you think of police power. Police power is the power held by the state to legislate for the purpose of preserving the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare.
Zoning for land use is generally divided into:
- Special use properties
Special purpose properties are properties that are there to benefit the public such as:
- Police Stations
Each of these land uses is subdivided into classifications. For example, a multi-family unit would be zoned as R-3; the R is for residential.
Zoning ordinances are a set of laws which control:
- Height of buildings
- Floor area ratios
- Buffer zones
Let's go over some keywords regarding zoning.
A setback is the distance from the edge of the road or sidewalk to the structure. It can also be measured from the center of the road; check your local zoning ordinances to see where the setback line is for you.
Density is usually associated with subdivisions, restricting the number of houses per acre that may be built within the subdivision.
A floor area ratio is the ratio of the square footage to land area. The floor area ratio can be used in zoning to limit the amount of construction in a certain area.
A buffer is found between two lots, such as a fence, wall, or row of trees.
A buffer zone is a space of land between two use districts, and may be something like a park, playground, or highway.
Downzoning is a change in the zoning to permit less intensive developments than are currently permitted. A zone going from commercial to residential is an example of downzoning.
A variance is an exception from the zoning rules. A variance is granted when the situation is exceptional and if granting the variance will not affect the rest of the community. An example would be a house built on an oddly-shaped lot. If the odd shape of the lot makes it difficult to comply with the setback line set by the zoning standard, a variance could be requested. Variances are granted lot by lot.