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Types Of Zoning

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Although zoning seems like a straightforward real estate topic in itself, there are many different types of zoning.  The major types include:

  • Spot Zoning
  • Contract Zoning
  • Down Zoning
  • Esthetic Zoning
  • Subdivision
  • Buffer Zoning

What Is Spot Zoning?

Spot zoning occurs when a small area of land or section in an existing neighborhood is singled out and placed in a different zone from that of neighboring property.  For example, a park or school might be allowed in a strictly residential area if it serves a useful purpose to the neighborhood residents.  In some areas of the country the courts have found spot zoning illegal on the ground that it is incompatible with the existing land use-zoning plan or in an overall zoning scheme for the community.  Whether the exception carved out is reasonable and supported by the facts often turns on public interest, the effect the spot zoning has on the current uses of neighboring properties, and any ramifications created by the zoning.

What Is Contract Zoning?

Contract zoning is allowed in some communities to allow a property owner to enter into a written agreement with the local government to rezone certain areas of land, on the condition that the limitations or restrictions set by the town for those parcels are accepted by the owner.  The conditions would not necessarily be applied to other similarly zoned parcels.

What Is Down Zoning?

Down zoning is rezoning of a track of land to less-dense uses.  Examples of down zoning are prohibiting high-rise apartments and allowing only low-rise apartments or single-family homes. Another is prohibiting industrial use and allowing retail uses.  Down zoning is one of the most popular tools for tightening the screws on development and curbing suburban sprawl.

What Is Esthetic Zoning?

One of the most rapidly expanding forms of zoning is the adoption of esthetic zoning regulation by some communities.  These ordinances describe what is and what is not permissible for a land owner in terms of landscaping, color schemes, mailboxes, fences, solar panels, decks, satellite dishes, types of materials, shapes of roof, and so forth. Esthetic zoning ordinance may require that building plans be submitted and approved by an architectural review committee before construction begins.

What Is a Subdivision?

A subdivision is just what the name implies: it is dividing a single piece of property into smaller, separate pieces or lots, usually to sell as a divided piece or to allow for future development.  Commonly the proposed subdivision involves a series of events that include notice and comment by the public and hearings before area residents and government officials before approval is given.

What Is Buffer Zoning?

Buffer zoning involves leaving a strip of land to develop a park, a small driving range, or grass and trees to separate a strictly single-family detached residential district from an apartment complex.  This practice is becoming a common planning approach used by local government and developers.

Do I Need a Real Estate Attorney?

Zoning problems can be complicated and include disputes with many different types of government authorities and neighbors.  It is recommended that you ontact a real estate attorney for more information.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 05-02-2012 02:40 PM PDT

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