DEFINITION of 'Zoning Ordinance'

A zoning ordinance is a written regulation and law that defines how property in specific geographic zones can be used. Zoning ordinances specify whether zones can be used for residential or commercial purposes, and may also regulate lot size, placement, bulk (or density) and the height of structures. Zoning ordinances are lengthy documents describing not only the acceptable use for specified areas of land, but also the procedures for handling infractions (including any penalties), granting variances and hearing appeals.

BREAKING DOWN 'Zoning Ordinance'

Zoning consists of dividing a particular region of land into districts or zones and specifying the types of land uses that are allowed and prohibited for each zone. This is performed by a municipal corporation or county and is typically specific to certain city regions. Zoning, in its basic form, attempts to separate residential property use from commercial property use.

Zoning ordinances give municipalities the ability to tailor the nature of their neighborhoods. Sections of a town zoned strictly for residential use not only create space for citizens to live but can also limit heavy traffic and noise pollution in that part of town. Municipal governments can institute highly specific zoning ordinances often to control the nature of a district or neighborhood. For example, zoning ordinances could be used to preserve an aesthetic for all the buildings in the area. If the municipality wishes to maintain a historic part of town, zoning ordinances could limit real estate there to buildings of a comparable height and square footage as the historic buildings.

How Zoning Ordinances Affect Current and Future Occupants of a Property

Changes to zoning ordinances can create tension with prospective tenants and landlords of properties. This can particularly be the case if a new business plans to move into a town, only to discover that the zoning has changed on the property they intended to occupy. Commercial properties can switch to residential and vice-verse because of zoning ordinances. In some instances, existing tenants could be forced to relocate because of the changes. A zoning ordinance could contain grandfather clauses that exempt existing tenants that were already present in the zone by a certain date.

There are options for properties that do not match a zoning ordinance to still be established in the respective neighborhoods. A zone that once allowed commercial businesses to operate might be changed by an ordinance to residential-only. Some small, local businesses might be grandfathered in and allowed to stay open. New businesses could apply for a variance and try to prove that their presence will not adversely affect the area. If the variance is approved, the new tenant can move in and operate regardless of zoning ordinance.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Building Ordinance Coverage

    Building ordinance coverage is insurance for increased costs ...
  2. Enterprise Zone

    An enterprise zone is a geographical area where a government ...
  3. Planned Urban Development - PUD

    A planned urban development is a real estate project that incorporates ...
  4. Zone Of Resistance

    Zone of resistance refers to the zone where a rising stock price ...
  5. Zero Capital Gains Rate

    The 0% capital gains tax rate charged to those selling properties ...
  6. Commercial Real Estate

    Commercial real estate is property, typically leased out to tenants, ...
Related Articles
  1. Small Business

    The Licenses and Permits You Need For Your Home-Based Business

    For anyone considering starting a home-based business, here's important information on business licenses and permits you need to operate legally.
  2. Investing

    Top 10 features of a profitable rental property

    Purchasing a residential rental property may sound great. But do you know what to consider when searching for the right property? Check out the following factors that can help your investment ...
  3. Personal Finance

    Attention, Flyers! Don’t Miss the Last Two Deal Zones of the Year

    The end of the year contains two incredible bargain periods for flying. How to take advantage of them.
  4. Personal Finance

    How to Live Mortgage Free in a Tiny House

    Downsizing to a much smaller home – no more than 500 square feet – on your own or rented land can be a smart way to offload mortgage debt.
  5. Insights

    Judge Blocks Unionizing by Seattle Ride-Share Drivers

    This is a small victory for ride-sharing apps in their efforts to prevent union formation.
  6. Insights

    What To Do When The Government Wants Your Land

    Find out how the government evaluates your land, what your options are and how to get the most from it.
  7. Investing

    Investing in out-of-state property

    If you can't afford property close to home, consider taking the real estate plunge elsewhere in the country, perhaps out of state.
  8. Investing

    7 Steps to A Hot Commercial Real Estate Deal

    For savvy real estate investors, times of lower prices reveal investment opportunity.
RELATED FAQS
  1. How does marginal utility relate to indifference curves in microeconomics?

    Discover how the economic concepts of marginal utility, ordinal preferences and indifference curves generate a unique way ... Read Answer >>
  2. What financial metrics are best for evaluating companies in the real estate sector?

    Learn about some of the most important financial metrics and other analytic tools before investing in a real estate company ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center