When was the last time you looked at the layout of the town where you live? Did you notice that the residential neighborhoods are in a quiet section with lots of trees? Are all the factories located on big lots, with easy access to freeways?
These layouts are no accident. Urban planners spend their entire careers designing and enforcing zoning laws that create comfortable neighborhoods and flourishing businesses.
Thinking of building a new home or business in your town? Read this article to find out how to follow local zoning laws that will promote your town's success.
What are Zoning Laws?
Zoning laws are the rules and regulations that local governments use to identify which land uses are permitted or prohibited. These laws (combined into a single document called an "ordinance") also standardize lot size, building height, and lot density (the greatest number of people who can live on the property.) Zoning ordinances keep land uses compatible with one another.
Types of Zoning
These are the common types of zoning districts you will find in most government zoning ordinances:
Residential zoning includes parcels where you can build Single Family Residences (SFR), condominiums or apartments.
Residential zoning also applies to home-based businesses. A home-based business is a small business within the business owner's home. Local ordinances and federal laws from the US Small Business Administration regulate the types of home-based businesses that can operate in the owner's home.
Commercial zoning outlines properties compatible for business use. Commercial zoning has different zone categories based on the business type and the expected number of customers. Some commercial zoning is ideal for coffee shops and dentist's offices while another zoning is ideal for shopping centers and hotels.
Industrial zoning accommodates manufacturing plants and warehouses that have noise concerns or hazardous materials stored onsite. This zoning helps businesses thrive while protecting residents from their harmful environmental impacts
How to Check Zoning Laws
Follow these simple steps on how to check zoning laws before you build your dream home or plan your new commercial enterprise:
Locate Your Property
Take your target property's address or location to the county assessor's office and get an assessor's parcel number (APN.) APNs are unique to the property and will help you figure out if you are within city or county boundaries. Cities and counties have their own individual ordinances, so you need to know which laws will apply to you.
Check Zoning Maps
Once you know whether you are in city or county boundaries, you need to review a zoning map that will identify the zoning for your target property. Some jurisdictions post zoning maps online for easy access.
Search City or County Ordinances
Check the applicable zoning ordinance that will show you the allowed uses for your property. The ordinance will also include any building design standards you must follow. Many jurisdictions post their local zoning laws online for easy access.
If you want help interpreting local laws, visit the applicable city or county Planning and Building Department. These professionals can advise you on the best ways to follow zoning laws, free of charge.
Ready to plan your dream home? Visit the county assessor's office and get your property's APN. Check for any zoning laws to find a list of compatible uses.
If you still have outstanding questions, make an appointment with your local planning and building department to get the help you need. If you want to find out more about building that home or business of your dreams, don't hesitate to check our blog for inspiration.