Zoning Laws Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Zoning Laws, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Zoning Laws?

“Laws issued by local governments to regulate the size, type, structure, and use of land or building in designated areas. These laws divide the cities into district areas according to use. For instance, single-family homes, commercial establishments, and industrial plants.

History and Meaning of Zoning Laws

Zoning laws are a relatively new concept in legal history, first appearing in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. The idea was to regulate land use in growing cities, which were becoming increasingly crowded and disorganized. The first zoning ordinance was passed in 1916 in New York City and became a model for other cities. Today, zoning laws are used by local governments to regulate the use, size, and structure of land and buildings in designated areas.

Zoning laws divide cities into different district areas based on their use, such as residential, commercial, and industrial. This creates more organized and coherent urban areas, with residential areas separated from noisy or polluting commercial or industrial areas. Zoning laws also regulate building size and height to ensure that buildings are safe and do not obstruct sunlight, views, or traffic.

Examples of Zoning Laws

  1. A homeowner wants to add an extension to their home, but their property is zoned for single-family homes only. They must obtain a zoning variance or change the zoning code to allow for the extension.
  2. A developer wants to build a shopping mall in a residential area. They cannot do so unless they get the zoning changed to allow for commercial development.
  3. A business owner wants to open a new restaurant. Zoning laws specify which areas are zoned for commercial use including restaurants, so the business owner must find an appropriate location before beginning construction.

Legal Terms Similar to Zoning Laws

  1. Land Use Regulations: The general term for laws and codes that regulate land use, including zoning laws.
  2. Building Codes: Regulations that govern building construction and safety standards.
  3. Eminent Domain: The power of the government to take private property for public use, often used in conjunction with zoning laws to clear land for public projects.