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Land Use Planning and Zoning: Key Concepts

Land use planning and zoning are critical to regulating how land is used and developed. These concepts are governed by a series of specific terms and definitions that are crucial for both professionals in the sector and the general public. In this article, we will explore these English terms in detail, as they are originally used in real estate language in the United States.

Definitions of Planning & Zoning

Building Code (Building Code)

A building code is a set of construction standards for an improved property, established by local government officials. This code establishes the guidelines and regulations that must be followed during the construction or renovation of a property to ensure the safety and quality of the work. A building that meets the building code receives a “Certificate of Occupancy“.

“A standard of construction of an improved property established by local government officials”

Certificate of Occupancy

He "Certificate of Occupancy” is a document that confirms that a newly constructed or renovated property has fully complied with all building codes and is ready for occupancy. It is an important confirmation that the property meets the required safety and habitability standards.

“A document confirming that a newly constructed or renovated property has fully complied with all building codes and is ready for occupancy”

Concurrency

Concurrency is a planning policy that requires developers to correct the anticipated negative impacts of a project during the project's construction period, rather than after completion. This policy seeks to address problems before they become larger problems for the community.

“A planning policy that requires developers to correct foreseen negative impacts of a development during the construction period of the project itself rather than afterward”

Condemnation

The condemnation It can have two meanings in the real estate context:

  1. A decision that allows a parcel of private property to be taken for public use under the power of the eminent domain, which means that the government has the right to acquire it with fair compensation.

    “A decree that a parcel of private property is to be taken for public use under the power of eminent domain.”

  2. A government order declaring that a property is no longer suitable for use and must be demolished for reasons of public health or safety.

    “A government order that is no longer fit for use and must be demolished.”

Deed Restriction

A Deed Restriction is a provision in a deed that limits or sets rules on how the property may be used or improved according to the wishes of the previous owner. These restrictions can vary widely and affect the future use of the property.

“A provision in a deed that limits or places rules on how the deeded property may be used or improved”

Eminent Domain (Public Domain)

He eminent domain is the power of a government entity to force the sale of private property for public use. This may include projects such as the construction of roads, schools or other public facilities. The owner must receive fair compensation for the property taken.

“A power of a government entity to force the sale of private property for subsequent public use”

Land Use Control

He Land Use Control refers to the regulation of how individual landowners can use land in a municipality or planning district. These controls are in line with a master plan and determine what types of developments and uses are permitted in different areas.

“Regulation of how individual owners use property in a municipality or planning district. Control patterns are in accordance with a master plan”

Master Plan

A master plan is a comprehensive land use plan for a municipality, county, or region that incorporates community input, the results of intensive research, and the state's various land use guidelines and regulations. It acts as a blueprint for future zoning ordinances and decisions.

An amalgamated land use plan for a municipality, county, or region which incorporates community opinion, the results of intensive research, and the various land use guidelines and regulations of the state. Acts as a blueprint for subsequent zoning ordinances and rulings

Non-Conforming Use (Non-Compliant Use)

A "non conforming use” refers to a land use, legal or illegal, that does not comply with the current zoning ordinance. It may be a use that existed before the ordinance was established or that has become nonconforming due to zoning changes.

“A legal or illegal land use that is not consistent with the current zoning ordinance”

Police Power

He "police power” refers to the legal authority of the government to create, regulate, tax, and expropriate real property in the interest of the public health, safety, and welfare. This power allows the government to establish regulations and controls to protect the community.

A government's legal authority to create, regulate, tax, and condemn real property in the interest of the public's health, safety, and welfare

Restriction

A restriction is a limitation on the use of property imposed by a deed, zoning, state statute, or public regulation. It can address a variety of issues, from building density to land use.

“A limitation on the use of a property imposed by deed, zoning, state statute, or public regulation”

Special Exception

A special exception refers to a land use in conflict with current zoning but authorized because of its perceived benefit to the public welfare. This usually involves a review and approval process by local authorities.

“A land use in conflict with current zoning that is authorized because of its perceived benefit to the public welfare”

Variance

A variance is a permit granted for a land use that conflicts with current zoning, but is allowed for certain reasons, such as extreme difficulty in complying with regulations or minimal negative impact on the surrounding area.

“A land use that conflicts with current zoning but is authorized for certain reasons, including undue hardship to comply and minimal negative impact to leave it alone”

Zoning Ordinance

A zoning ordinance It is a municipal land use regulation. Establishes zones, use restrictions, regulations and requirements for the development of properties within a jurisdiction. These ordinances allow urban land managers to create separate land uses that do not conflict with each other or create incompatible adjacencies.

“A municipal land use regulation”

Land Use Planning

Land use planning is an essential process for regulating how land is used and developing communities effectively. The objectives of this control include preserving property values, promoting the most appropriate use of land, protecting public health and safety, controlling growth, and incorporating community consensus.

Land Use Control Objectives – Goals

Key objectives of land use control include:

  • Preserve property values (preserve property values)
  • Promote the most appropriate use of land (promote highest and best use)
  • Safeguard public health, safety and welfare (safeguard public health, safety and welfare)
  • Control growth and expansion (control growth)
  • Integrate community consensus into planning and development (incorporate community consensus)

Plan Development

Developing a land use plan involves researching current trends and conditions. Additionally, local and state goals should be incorporated into a master plan to serve as a guide for future zoning and development decisions.

Research trends and conditions; blend local and state objectives into master plan

Process: develop plan; create administration; authorize controls

Planning Management

Planning management involves the creation of commissions responsible for establishing rules, approving permits, codes and development plans.

Public Land Use Controls

Public land use controls, such as zoning, are vital to regulating how communities develop and how land is used. These controls are essential to ensure that developments are safe, compliant and beneficial to the community.

Planning management

The commission sets standards, approves permits, codes and development plans.

Commission makes rules, approves permits, codes, and development plans

Public Land Use Controls

Zoning

Zoning is a power granted by state legislation that allows urban authorities to create separate zones with specific land use restrictions. This allows the development of different types of land uses that do not conflict with each other or create incompatible adjacencies.

“police power” granted by state-level enabling acts; zoning ordinance: creates zones, usage restrictions, regulations, requirements

enables urban land managers to create separate land uses that do not conflict with one another nor create incompatible adjacencies

Types of Zones

Zones may include:

  • Residential (regulates density, or number of dwellings in an area)
  • Commercial (regulates intensity, or how much commercial activity is permitted in relation to size of the site)
  • Industrial.
  • Agricultural.
  • Public.
  • Planned Development (PUD).

PUD – Planned Unit Development

Planned development is a type of zoning designed to regulate the use of entire parcels of land with a unique layout. This is done with the purpose of achieving optimal space efficiency and the preservation of green areas.

Zoning administrationZoning Administration)

Zoning administration involves overseeing the application of zoning rules and regulations. This is done through a Zoning Board of Adjustments that is responsible for managing and reviewing zoning decisions.

Zoning Board of Adjustment oversees rule administration and appeals

Zoning Appeals

Zoning appeals are processes that allow property owners or developers to seek exceptions or changes to existing zoning regulations.

These appeals may include:

  • Nonconforming use (Non-conforming use): Legal use if it existed before the creation of the zone, illegal otherwise. (Legal if use existed prior to zone creation, illegal otherwise)
  • Variance (Variation): Exception of use granted due to extreme difficulties in complying with the regulations (use exception granted based on hardship).
  • Special exception (Special Exception): Based on the public interest.
  • Amendment (Amendment): Change of zones; rezoning

Subdivision Regulation

Subdivision regulation involves meeting the requirements for subdivision of land, including approval of a subdivision plat that must meet FHA-insured financing requirements. This includes aspects such as location, grading, alignment, street width, drainage, lot dimensions, construction lines and public use dedications.

plat of subdivision and relevant requirements must be met and approved; must meet FHA requirements for insured financing

location, grading, alignment, surfacing, street width, highways

sewers and water mains

lot and block dimensions

building and setback lines

public use dedications

utility easements

ground percolation

Environmental Restrictions

Environmental restrictions refer to a series of regulations that address environmental issues such as flood control, solid waste disposal, air quality, water quality, marine protection, noise control, toxic substance control , lead-based paint, and laws like CERCLA and the Superfund.

Environmental Laws

Environmental laws are regulations intended to protect the environment and public health. These laws cover a wide variety of topics, from flood control to solid waste disposal, air quality, water quality, marine protection, noise control, toxic substance control, paint laws based on lead and regulations such as the Comprehensive Environmental Response and Responsible Responsibility Act (CERCLA) and the Surface Fund (Superfund).

Conclusion

Land use planning and zoning in the United States involves a number of key concepts and terms that are crucial to the regulation of how land is developed and used. From building codes to environmental restrictions and zoning regulations, these elements are critical to ensuring the orderly and safe growth of communities and the protection of the public interest in real estate. Understanding these concepts is essential for both professionals in the sector and anyone interested in the dynamics of real estate development in the United States.

Legal and Tax Disclaimer

Please be advised that the content presented in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. The articles and information provided here are written from the perspective of a real estate agent affiliated with Keller Williams, and do not represent legal or tax counsel.

As the author, I am a licensed real estate professional under Keller Williams, holding Brokerage DRE License Number: #02197031. However, it is important to note that my expertise is in the field of real estate, and not in legal or tax matters. The insights and opinions shared on this blog are based on my experiences and knowledge in the real estate industry and should be treated as general guidance rather than definitive legal or tax advice.

For specific legal or tax concerns relating to any real estate transactions or investments, readers are strongly encouraged to consult with a qualified attorney or tax advisor who can provide tailored advice based on your individual circumstances and the latest legal and regulatory requirements.

The information on this blog is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, and I, along with Keller Williams and its affiliates, disclaim all liability for any loss, damage, or misunderstanding arising from reliance on the information contained herein.

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