You may be surprised to discover that your property is zoned only for certain uses or certain types of buildings, but many cities, large and small, pass zoning laws in an attempt to protect property values and improve the appearance of the community. For example, zoning laws may prevent you from operating a certain type of business on your property or building a certain type of home.
Zoning divides an area into districts and establishes rules that govern the use and appearance of property in those districts. For example, a zoning regulation may establish residential and commercial areas so that commercial businesses are not scattered between residential homes. In theory, this adds to each property’s value since homeowners have some assurance that a large office complex or manufacturing plant will not be built right next door.
Typically, zoning is done at the city level since city governments are the lowest level of government and can, therefore, be more responsive to the needs of their community. Often, planning and zoning committees hear variance requests from those who want to do something outside the zoning regulations, and such committees may be charged with developing new zoning plans and hearing public comments on such proposals.
Size and Shape
Zoning regulations vary greatly between cities, but they commonly govern the size and shape of buildings and lots. A zoning regulation may prohibit buildings over a certain height, for example, or prevent lots from being sized so haphazardly that the area looks more like a jigsaw puzzle than an organized subdivision. Generally, property values benefit when similar structures are built near each other and in an orderly fashion, so this type of zoning may protect property values by providing uniformity.
Zoning regulations also dictate the way properties can be used, protecting property values by ensuring properties are used compatibly with the other uses in a zoned area. For example, zoning may prohibit your neighbor from running certain types of businesses like tattoo parlors and retail sales out of his home in your residential neighborhood. This adds predictability to residential neighborhoods and reduces the risk that your property may lose value if your neighbor’s business attracts increased traffic, causes parking problems or makes your street into an otherwise undesirable location.
At their core, many zoning regulations aim to improve the appearance of certain areas, thereby increasing overall property values because the area looks nicer. For example, zoning may protect residential properties from nearby commercial development by requiring the businesses to install landscaping and other screening or privacy buffers to reduce the business’ impact on the residential area. Zoning may also require street landscaping or parking lot improvements, and zoning regulations may dictate where commercial signs can be placed. Zoning regulations also can be used to prohibit manufactured homes in a certain area or to force modular homes to meet certain appearance standards.
Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.