Understanding Zoning Laws In Real Estate

Zoning laws might not get as much attention as other real estate factors, but they play a big role in a property’s function and value. Understanding how they work can help real estate investors make smart choices when considering properties.

How Zoning Works

Zoning laws are essentially laws saying certain pieces of property can only be used for specific applications. Zoning makes it easy to provide the right public infrastructure and mitigates conflicts between adjoining properties who want incompatible land uses, such as a noisy bar right by a quiet residential home. In newer cities, zoning was considered from the start, so the city usually had a comprehensive plan that laid out exactly how the founders wanted everything arranged. In older cities created before zoning became popular, zoning tends to be less strict, with very small zones of land mixed together seemingly at random. This happens because older buildings may be “grandfathered in” and not have to comply with newer zoning regulations.

How to Change Zoning

So what should a person do if they do not agree with the current plans for zoning an area? Most cities have a process in place for changing the zoning. Typically, a person just needs to submit a rezoning application. The relevant city board will then look at the application and consider whether the changes would benefit the community and comply with the comprehensive zoning plan. Even if the city is not willing to permanently rezone the property, they may grant a variance or conditional use. This lets the landowner be released from having to strictly comply with zoning regulations.

Types of Zones

Zoning laws get very complex, so there are all sorts of very specific zoning terms. However, most zones can be divided into four categories:

  • Residential: This is land meant for homes. In many cities, it is further divided into single-family and multi-family zones.
  • Commercial: This is the broadest zoning category, containing a variety of shops, restaurants, bars, and retail stores.
  • Agricultural: This is land set aside for farming and food production.
  • Industrial: Industrial zoning is used for a variety of factories and manufacturing areas.

This article was originally published on JasonCohenPittsburgh.org

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