Navigating Zoning Regulations
“This is my property and I should be able to do with it what I please.”
In some areas, this statement may be accurate and defendable. However, in other areas land development zoning is controlled by an entity such as a city or municipality. Zoning controls may be thought by some to infringe upon property rights, but if you look at the greater good, zoning controls provide for a number of benefits to the community as a whole. The purpose of zoning is to balance space for living, working, and playing, and to make it easier to achieve that balance.
When pursuing a new development within a community or financing a redevelopment, it is crucial to not only know the zoning parameters of the city and its comprehensive plan for the future, but how to navigate them.
How Zoning is Beneficial for a Quality Community
Zoning is one method a governing body uses to control various items pertaining to land use, and it usually goes hand-in-hand with a city’s comprehensive plan. Zoning regulations may include things such as allowed uses; area and space limitations; density; building setbacks and heights; architectural guidelines; and screening, environmental, and parking requirements.
Zoning impacts the community in a number of ways. It can allow similar structures and uses to be placed near each other. It can also encourage and plan for buildings and services which enhance and support each other, like having parks and grocery stores near residential neighborhoods, or having medical buildings situated near major roads for ease of access by emergency vehicles.
Zoning ordinances may provide for transitional areas between different uses. For example, single-family homes may be separated from higher traffic office and retail centers by multi-family developments and strategic landscaping or buffering open space. Certain industrial uses may not be allowed near homes or places of public recreation. Heavier, more intense uses like manufacturing are typically separated by a transition of office and retail, and often by a strategic use of roadways. Building heights may transition as well, as residents may not want their houses next to 10-story buildings or buildings in downtown areas disrupting wind flow and sunlight.
Effects of Development and Economy on Zoning Regulations
Private development and markets, as well as politics, also drive regulation. Currently the housing market has been outpacing the retail and commercial markets, which causes demands for re-zoning certain properties from commercial to residential uses. However, if the balance of the tax base gets too heavy in residential, it may become more challenging to achieve new residential approvals in that particular community. The cost of providing city services such as police, fire, trash, water and sewer, and sanitation may outweigh the taxes collected on residential alone. This also creates a challenging climate for big-box retail, as it forces creativity in filling shuttered anchor stores with alternative uses.
Economic growth in a fully developed city may push the need for greater building heights, revised lot sizes, and increased density guidelines. In downtown urban areas, cities may seek to reduce the impact of vehicle traffic on the roadways and air quality by implementing strategies and regulations to increase pedestrian and bike traffic.
The Zoning Report
Identifying land use factors contributing to zoning in the most advantageous location becomes both an art and a science. Having the right team that is able to understand and communicate these factors is vital to the future success and financing of your project. Here at Westwood, we are experts in this area and are able to aid you in making your dreams become a reality. A Zoning Report will summarize the information gathered and allow you to make an informed decision on your investment. Contact us to see a sample zoning report or to chat about your project.
This article was originally published December 19, 2018