Zoning is the regulation of privately owned land by public authorities. Local governments often use zoning laws for community planning and regulation. Many zoning ordinances (local zoning laws) regulate how land is to be used; for example, some land may be for residential purposes while other land may be for business purposes. Issues often arise when there is a conflict between residential and business interests. Below are some of the most common zoning issues.
Lack of accessible parking can negatively affect businesses but can also decrease residents’ enjoyment of residential areas. The amount of parking available may not be sufficient to accommodate both the patrons of local businesses and residents of local developments. Residents may have difficulty finding parking close to their homes and businesses may have difficulty retaining customers who are frustrated with their inability to find convenient parking.
Zoning ordinances may regulate the size of buildings. These restrictions are in place for both safety and aesthetics purposes. In some areas, structures cannot be too tall or else they may be a hazard to flight safety and air navigation. When the government decrees a structure to be an important landmark, there may be restrictions on new building heights so that views of the landmark are not blocked.
Many local governments have implemented sign laws regulating the size, type and placement of signs. While signs are important navigational and cautionary tools, their improper placement could obscure visibility for drivers or be dangerous distractions. Furthermore, too many signs can create displeasing visual clutter for the community. Homeowners associations also often implement sign restrictions to enhance and maintain communities’ appearances.
Setback is the distance between a property line and where building can take place. In residential areas, these ordinances prevent houses from being built too close to one another and allow for access to ventilation and light. For businesses, setback ordinances often dictate the distance a building may be from the road for safety purposes.
Activities such as solicitation, selling of goods without a license, or smoking may not be allowed in certain areas. Some zoning regulations even have sound decibel limits in order to control noise pollution. These restrictions can vary greatly across cities and neighborhoods as each community aims to accomplish specific goals.
Zoning disputes are generally resolved in one of two ways. First, the parties may file a claim with the local government. If they are unable to exercise self-help by resolving the dispute on their own, then local government will assist in resolving the dispute.
Second, parties can file a civil lawsuit. This remedy is commonly pursued in cases of alleged civil rights violations. Courts will usually issue an injunction ordering one of the parties to cease illegal or unlawful activity, but they may also award damages to parties who experienced economic losses.