What Are Zoning Laws?

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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 28 March 2020
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In many jurisdictions throughout the world, land use is closely governed by zoning laws. In general, these laws are the compilation of all laws that affect the use and development of land. What can be constructed on a plot of land, how land may be divided or sold, and what type of business may be operated on a plot of land are all issues that fall within the purview of zoning laws.

In many countries throughout the world, land is at a premium. As a result, many governments have very strict laws that determine how that land may be used. Local, state, and federal governments may all be involved in zoning laws that directly affect land use.

One common issue that is often addressed by a zoning law is what may be constructed on a piece of land. National or federal laws, for instance, may set aside certain areas of land as wild land and forbid any type of construction or development at all on the land. Local laws may dictate how high of a structure may be built on a piece of land or what materials may be used in the construction of the structure. For residential land use, local laws may require a home to be a certain size or may prevent multi-family homes from being built on certain properties.


In some countries, zoning laws will dictate how land may be divided or who may own land. Laws may prevent a landowner, for example, from subdividing his or her land in order to keep a certain appearance of a neighborhood or subdivision. National or federal laws may also dictate who may purchase land. In some countries, for example, Mexico, non-citizens have historically been prevented from owning prime real estate, such as ocean front property.

Zoning laws will have a strong influence on what type of business may be operated on a property in many jurisdictions. Within the United States, local laws can determine everything from what may be sold at a business to how many cars may be parked on the property, for example. Within the United States, these laws generally divide property into commercial, industrial, or residential zones, with many sub-zones within those categories. Prior to purchasing a piece of land or planning to open a business on a piece of property, a business owner must carefully consult all zoning laws to be certain that the laws will allow the type of business desired.


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Post 2

@Soulfox -- all too true and there has always been pressure to put county wide zoning laws in place. Those haven't been too popular in rural areas due to agricultural operations resisting those laws and businesses that don't want to deal with the more restrictive zoning ordinances in cities.

For those reasons, the attempts to zone areas outside of cities have been largely unsuccessful.

Post 1

In a lot of counties in the United States, there are zoning laws in the cities but not outside of them. The lack of zoning laws attracts and encourages all sorts of development outside of the cities. Couple very relaxed zoning laws (or, none at all locally) with cheaper land prices and it is no wonder you see a lot of factories and large scale development located near cities but not in them.

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