Different Categories of Zoning


Local governments have the right to specify generally what a piece of land can be used for, which supersedes the rights of the owner to do what he or she wants with the land to a certain extent. Zoning is a process by which the government decides what the land should be used for and communicates this to property owners. There are different categories of zoning based on accepted land uses.

Agricultural Zoning

The uses of agricultural zoning depend on the state. Sometimes agricultural zoning is necessary for tax abatements, subsidies, or federal incentive programs. In farming communities, agricultural zoning can prevent residential development from causing fragmentation. Agricultural zoning restricts non-farming land use and limits development density.

Commercial Zoning

Broadly speaking, commercial zoning allows a property to be used for business. Since there are many different businesses, there are also many different subcategories of commercial zoning. The type of business, its proximity to others, and the availability of parking may all affect the type of zoning available. For example, some communities do not allow adult entertainment establishments to operate near churches or schools, or within a certain geographical area.

Generally, residential buildings are not allowed in an area zoned for commerce. However, an exception may be made for apartment complexes or hotels as these typically generate profit for the owners. An exception may be more likely if the property has multipurpose potential, e.g., the lower level used for commerce while the upper levels house apartments.

Industrial Zoning

Industrial zoning is reserved for specific types of businesses, such as airports or manufacturing plants. This determination is based on noise concerns and other environmental factors. Industrial-zoned properties must abide by restrictions such as higher set-back requirements.

Residential Zoning

Residential zoning laws determine things such as how many animals, and of what type can live on a property and whether the owner of a residential property can operate a home-based business. Residential zoning can apply to any type of building or complex where people live, such as condominiums, duplexes, trailer parks, apartments, single-family homes, and suburban homesteads. The specific laws of a given area can govern how many buildings are allowed on any one property, such as an apartment complex, or whether it can accommodate one or more mobile homes.

Zoning laws are not absolute. There are avenues through which you can get a property rezoned. If you are interested in this, have a zoning dispute with a neighbor, or experience any other legal issues related to land use, contact an experienced real estate lawyer to help you out with your zoning related issues.