Zoning and Planning

When it comes to zoning and planning, most cities have what is called a master land plan, which is simply a plan for the city's future growth. A master land plan shows where the city will be going in the future and will the property be residential, commercial, agricultural, etc. Cities don't always grow, however, according to plan. So, the need arises to put in what is called a buffer zone. A buffer zone separates two incompatible areas like between a wetlands area for wildlife and a residential subdivision. Putting in a buffer zone shields those two different land uses from each other. There are many different types of zoning in cities. We can zone property for residential, commercial, and agricultural. Those are some of the broad categories. However, there are always exceptions to the zoning laws. One is called nonconforming use, the keywords being before zoning.

If you are using a property for a certain type of use before a zoning change, you're allowed to continue that use. For example, let's say you're using a property for an ice cream store, and then the city changes the zoning to residential. You don't have to move your ice cream store because you were there before the zoning change. The opposite of a nonconforming use is a variance. A variance is for after zoning. This is where you want to change something after the zoning is in place. So, let's say that the zoning in place is for residential. You own a lot, but you would like to put in an ice cream store, you would have to go and apply for a variance to be able to use that residentially zoned lot for an ice cream store. Typically, the zoning commission will look at what do the neighbors think, as those types of items are always taken into consideration.

A subdivision typically will have what are called regulations and restrictions. Regulations are put in by the government, meaning that in a subdivision, a developer will have to put in things like streets and sewers, those types of items. Also, the developer would typically put in what are called deed restrictions. Now, these are the private deed restrictions, such as certain types of roofs and fences. If there's ever a disagreement between the government regulations and the private deed restrictions, the most restrictive of the two will always take priority. Finally, many times a developer will dedicate land to the government, such as land for a park or maybe a school. This is called dedication.


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