Zoning (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Zoning is a police power that permits local governing bodies to infringe on private property rights in order to protect the general public health and safety and to preserve property values. Zoning regulations are found throughout the world; they generally commence with authorization, usually through a state, federal, or national enabling law, that permits local governments to regulate the uses and dimensions of land, buildings, and other structures for the purpose of achieving general and specific purposes. Relief from onerous zoning regulations is available through various uniform permitting processes, such as variances, that are set forth in the authorizing legislation and in local laws.
In 1926 the U.S. Supreme Court decided the seminal case of Euclid v. Ambler, which upheld the right of the village of Euclid, Ohio, to regulate an industrial use in order to achieve the legitimate governmental purpose of protecting a residential neighborhood. After the Euclid decision urban planning and zoning, often dubbed Euclidean zoning, spread throughout the United States, and local governments began to adopt zoning ordinances and bylaws. Over time zoning laws have become increasingly comprehensive and have placed greater limitations on private property as courts have continued to uphold more complex regulations. However, in the United States zoning regulations may be found invalid and unconstitutional if they go too far in...
(The entire section is 240 words.)
Use and Dimensional Regulations (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Cities, towns, counties, and other governmental bodies usually commence the zoning process by adopting zoning maps that depict various zoning districts within geographic boundaries. The districts are related to land use and are usually derived from municipal land-use plans. Types of zoning districts include residential, multifamily, commercial, industrial, and open space. Within each zoning district some uses are allowed by right without further governmental review. Other uses may be prohibited within a district, while some are permitted after discretionary review by a local land-use board or official established to conduct such review. Most discretionary reviews require due process, including notice and holding of public hearings, before a regulatory body or official makes a decision. In addition, due process provides the property owner with the right to appeal a zoning decision, usually to a local quasi-judicial body and eventually—after all other available remedies are exhausted—to a municipal or state court.
In tandem with the adoption of zoning maps, governments adopt regulations that apply to uses within each zoning district, including dimensional regulations. Dimensional regulations might include regulation of lot sizes through frontage, which is a measurement along the way or road providing access to a lot; depth regulations, concerning the lengths of side lot lines; and rear lot line lengths. In...
(The entire section is 303 words.)
Complexity of Regulations (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Over time, with increases in population and urban growth, as well as the emergence of new technologies, the regulation of land use has become more complex. Under performance zoning regulations, for example, developers whose developments meet specific community goals receive bonus points that allow them more flexibility in design, usually with respect to density controls. In a similar vein, some zoning laws allow a private property owner to protect important natural or historic features on a piece of property by exchanging or transferring development rights on that property for greater development rights on another piece of property. Incentive zoning regulations may involve impact fees, which require monetary payments to the government when specific land uses overburden existing infrastructure, such as roads or schools. Moreover, state and federal laws may infringe on local governments’ authority to regulate and prohibit land uses to which residents may have objections, such as transmission towers, wind farms, and hazardous waste facilities.
Zoning has become a popular regulatory vehicle among groups seeking to protect wetlands, floodplains, and other natural resources from any development. Although such regulations were often found to be unconstitutional takings in the United States when first adopted, courts are no longer reluctant to preserve the natural environment for future generations by upholding such...
(The entire section is 215 words.)
Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Arnold, Craig Anthony. Fair and Healthy Land Use: Environmental Justice and Planning. Chicago: American Planning Association, 2007.
Babcock, Richard F., and Charles L. Siemon. The Zoning Game Revisited. 1985. Reprint. Cambridge, Mass.: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 1990.
Boone, Christopher G., and Ali Modarres. City and Environment. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006.
Elliott, Donald L. A Better Way to Zone: Ten Principles to Create More Livable Cities. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2008.
Ferrey, Steven. “Local Environmental Controls.” In Environmental Law: Examples and Explanations. 5th ed. New York: Aspen, 2010.
Merriam, Dwight. The Complete Guide to Zoning: How to Navigate the Complex and Expensive Maze of Zoning, Planning, Environmental, and Land-Use Law. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004.
Nolon, John R. Open Ground: Effective Local Strategies for Protecting Natural Resources. Washington, D.C.: Environmental Law Institute, 2003.
Wolf, Michael A. The Zoning of America: Euclid v. Ambler. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2008.
(The entire section is 142 words.)
Zoning (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The separation or division of a municipality into districts, the regulation of buildings and structures in such districts in accordance with their construction and the nature and extent of their use, and the dedication of such districts to particular uses designed to serve the GENERAL WELFARE.
Zoning, the regulation of the use of real property by local government, restricts a particular territory to residential, commercial, industrial, or other uses. The local governing body considers the character of the property as well as its fitness for particular uses. It must enact the regulations in accordance with a well-considered and comprehensive plan intended to avoid ARBITRARY exercise of government power. A comprehensive plan is a general design to control the use of properties in the entire municipality, or at least in a large portion of it. Individual pieces of property should not be singled out for special treatment. For example, one or two lots may not be placed in a separate zone and subjected to restrictions that do not apply to similar adjoining lands.
Zoning ordinances divide a town, city, village, or county into separate residential, commercial, and industrial districts, thereby preserving the desirable characteristics of each type of setting. These laws generally limit dimensions in each zone. Many regulations require certain building features and limit the...
(The entire section is 2035 words.)