Zoning laws usually consist of a zoning ordinance, specifying the regulations applicable to each zone, and a zoning map, indicating the zone characteristics of each parcel of land within the community. Zones may be regulated as to use, height, and land coverage. Within each district or zone, the applicable restrictions should be uniform. The following are the most common types of zones encountered in land use regulation: 

  • Use Districts: Typical use districts are residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural. These districts may be further subdivided as to intensity of the permitted use. Residential use districts are generally divided along a continuum from the single-family to the high rise apartment. Commercial and industrial zones are usually defined as either light or heavy.
  • Height Districts: Building height regulation is one of the oldest forms of land use regulation. A community may set different height limits for different parts of town. These height limits may or may not coincide with use and bulk districts.
  • Land Coverage: Land coverage and bulk regulations take on many forms. The following are the most common coverage limitations:
    • Minimum floor space
    • Minimum lot size
    • Floor-area ratio
    • Open space
    • Cluster
  • Floating Zones: A zoning ordinance may permit a certain type of use but not include it within any of the districts actually shown on the zoning map. Such a use or zone floats until it is applied to a certain parcel.
  • Holding Zones: A community may be unprepared to comprehensively zone its entire area at one time. To restrict development in an area before there has been opportunity to zone and plan it, the planning board may temporarily zone the land for low intensity uses.

Should I Contact a Property Attorney about My Zoning Questions?

If you have questions or a potential legal matter involving zoning, the advice of an experienced real property attorney can be extremely helpful. A property lawyer can help you determine the strength of your potential case and will be able to explain some of the complex legal ideas behind this particular area of law.