Magazine article Public Management

How Not to Zone out on Zoning: Make Zoning Understandable

Magazine article Public Management

How Not to Zone out on Zoning: Make Zoning Understandable

Article excerpt

Here are what I consider to be the 10 most important things managers should know about zoning:

Zoning is understandable.

Most zoning ordinances are confusing. Why? Because the basic elements of the ordinance are all mixed up like the ingredients of a tossed salad.

There are seven basic elements to every zoning ordinance.

FIRST ELEMENT: segregation of uses. The core of every ordinance is the section containing the regulations regarding the segregation of permitted uses. In addition to permitted uses, some things, like churches, daycare centers, and so forth are considered special uses that require a special use permit before they can be undertaken.

SECOND ELEMENT: development standards or rules regarding the size and shape of lots and buildings erected on property. They are always specifically measurable, including how high, how wide, and how deep a building can be. Variances are waivers of development standards that would allow, for instance, a home to be located closer to the street than normal because of a special characteristic of the property (e.g., a deep canyon).

THIRD ELEMENT: nonconformities that are lots, buildings, and uses that existed before the zoning ordinance was adopted but are inconsistent with the zoning. The terms "grandfathered" and "vested rights" relate to this element. Some jurisdictions don't allow these to be changed at all, but most allow changes under certain conditions.

FOURTH ELEMENT evaluation criteria. These are rules used to judge the merit of permit applications to do or build things that are not allowed outright by the zoning ordinance. …

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