Zoning Questions from Visitors

Since we just can't write pages about all possible zoning questions, and since that would be pretty boring for you only to hear our voice on this complex subject--time to answer what seems important to our visitors. You get to see the questions below and read answers from the editors or other visitors.

Land use zoning questions might concern the different categories your locality chooses to use.  Some are much more common than others, so below there will be an esoteric land use classification or two.

Zoning questions also could focus in on appropriate setbacks in particular  districts, building height regulations, or parking minimum requirements (but we urge maximum requirements, to encourage filtering of stormwater runoff, transit use, and a bikeable and walkable community.)

Many times sign regulations are part of the ordinance as well, and if we get started on that, we might have to split off that group of community development inquiries.

From listening to the critics of zoning throughout the planning and architecture professions right now, you would think that zoning questions were becoming a thing of the past.

Not so.  The general public, or at least those slightly in the know about civic affairs, has an idea of what the local zoning law covers.  But almost anyone can get lost in the weeds of all the intricate requirements and situations your local ordinance might mention.

Although our invitation form below asks if you want to leave a name and location, it’s not essential.  For this purpose, you probably want to leave off your location—unless you really want public humiliation for your town government.  We do find it amusing that some visitors act this way.  And perhaps they are well justified.

Just be aware that many zoning ordinances have grown like topsy.   This expression means that the rationale behind some amendments that may have been lost over time, so the ordinance becomes unwieldy.  And you don’t pay attention until it affects you personally.

If a zoning law is impacting you personally, here’s where you can ask about your specific situation and receive a general answer. We have to repeat that we’re not attorneys and can’t give legal advice. As a general practice we don’t go read your state law either, as we want to give the most common good advice that a planner would give to his or her next door neighbor.

If you’re a professional in this field, this is where you can get a sense of what people find confusing.


What's Your Zoning Question?

Do you have a question about zoning? Or perhaps you have a question about something that is often covered in a zoning ordinance, such as building height, parking requirements, or special use permits. Ask anything, and if we think we can contribute to the answer or that other visitors will answer, it will appear on its own web page!

Other Questions and Answers

Click below to see contributions from other visitors.

How to Plead My Case on a Re-zoning 
Visitor Question: There are 7 property owners with 8 lots in our subdivision (we are all on 6-8 acre lots). One of the property owners wants to develop …

Zoning Permit for Signs? 
What is the necessity of a zoning permit for signs, as compared to just a building permit? I am the planning and zoning director of a rural/suburban …

Business Conditional Use Permit next to home and farm. 
I live in a rural/agricultural area. I own 55 acres of pasture and farm ground. My only visible neighbor now owns my parents' place which is adjacent …

Do I need a permit to start using my house as a church? 
My city has planning and building departments and Conditional Use Permits. Do I need a conditional use permit to start using my residential house as a …

Zoning for Church Next Door 
A pastor is running a church out of his home in a neighborhood,and there are problems with traffic and kids acting like nuisance bullies. The pastor turns …

Fighting Hotel Zoning 
My neighborhood has changed considerably over the years. I live in a residential community that allows hotels; however, there is only one hotel and there …

Church buying residence to use for youth center does zoning allow 
A church on the next block over has purchased the house behind ours. We asked some people coming out of the church what they intended to do with the residence, …

Why is zoning important 
Visitor Question: I'm curious about why zoning is important in small cities. Wouldn't people make good decisions by themselves without zoning laws? …

Rezoning When Deed Restrictions Prohibit Activity Not rated yet
Visitor Question: Can township zoning appeals rezone a 1/2 acre lot in the middle of residential develop to agricultural? I am in Ohio without an HOA. …

Rezoned Property Not Following Regulations Not rated yet
Visitor Question: If the Township granted a zoning amendment that would violate the new zoning district, for example changing agriculture/residential …

Are Townhomes Spot Zoning? Not rated yet
Visitor Question: There is a parcel of land, 3.3 acres on the western edge of our neighborhood. The neighborhood is all single family homes (R5). This …

Church Parking Lot Leased for Business Parking Not rated yet
Visitor Question: We live near a church which is located in a residential area. The church main parking lot holds about 200 cars. The have leased about …

Using an Apartment to Conduct Church Services Not rated yet
Visitor Question: Can my neighbor legally use her rented apartment to conduct church services for more than 50 people in Connecticut every Sunday? …

Gas Station Next to My House Not rated yet
Visitor Says: Hi my name is Yanci Arreola. I've lived in Safford AZ for 3 years. About 2 years ago we had a realtor come up to us trying to buy our …

Commercial Church Kitchen as Food Truck Commissary Not rated yet
Visitor Question: We have spent three years upgrading our church kitchen to meet Health Department requirements for a Commercial Kitchen. Now that …

Restricting Times of Church Worship Not rated yet
Visitor Question: A church in our town has been approved to buy an old college campus church. During the C.U.P. process they wanted a condition, "The …

Illegal Fence Disagreement  Not rated yet
Visitor Question: I purchased a single family home last year with one acre. The home borders 13 acres of open fields that went with the house before the …

How to Object to Neighbor's Variance Not rated yet
I live in a condo and my building got a use variance to build to full lot coverage in 2005. My condo is in the residential zone (R-1) and should be 2 families …

More Church Zoning Questions Not rated yet
At Useful Community Development we are receiving many questions about zoning for churches or church-related land uses. We already have answered several …

Auxiliary Land Improvement Not rated yet
I live in a residential area. Across the street there is a lot that is zoned residential but classed as an auxiliary land improvement. It is a dump. What …

Spot Zoning for Rendering Plant Not rated yet
Application for a rendering plant requires a re zone to heavy industrial of the proposed site. Miles of surrounding property is zone agriculture use. Little …

Commercial driveway in a residential zone Not rated yet
I live in a small town on a block that is adjacent to the retail district. Zoning is r-3. On my side of the street there are only houses. On the other …

Existing Businesses in an Incorporation Not rated yet
Our City incorporated in 2008. Many Rural Home Businesses had operated from home successfully for more than forty years. The home business ordinance …

Why aren't streams included in zoning? Not rated yet
Where are streams and creeks in the zoning guidelines? Editors' Reply: That's an excellent question, and the main reason seems to be tradition. …

Click here to write your own.

Legal Problems Due to Starting Petition Not rated yet
Visitor Asks: What are the legal repercussions of starting a petition? Can I be sued if I start a petition against a rezoning for a certain development? …

Using building as a church Not rated yet
Can any building be used as a church? Editors Reply: The practical answer to this question is no. In theory, as you know if you read our church …

Counseling Business in a Residence Not rated yet
My neighborhood is zoned R1-8. A neighbor moved in across the street and is conducting counseling (individual and group) out of the home. Do the neighbor …

Stopping an unwanted business Not rated yet
I live in a small rural village. The downtown area is a mix of small businesses and residential. There is a developer who wants to put a private drug …

Churches in Single Family Neighborhood Not rated yet
If a church is approved for an existing low density single family home neighborhood, is it treated the same as every other resident of that in regards …

Family reunion rental in single-family zoning? Not rated yet
A 17,000 square foot home is under construction as a "single family residence" in our quiet residential area. It has come to our attention that the owner …

How rezoning affects property value Not rated yet
I currently live in a subdivision that is divided into 5 acre tracts and zoned as rural residential. Currently a rezoning R-1 has been proposed to …

Zoning changes on private property Not rated yet
Can a city change my private property zoning classification without my permission? Editors' Response: Yes, a city can change your zoning without …

Legislative Intent in Amending Zoning Code Not rated yet
Is it necessary for a municipality to explicitly state its legislative intent when amending its zoning code? A municipality has indicated that it wants …

Church Property Rezoning Not rated yet
Must a property bearing a place of worship always bear a place of worship? Or may it be sold for any use permitted by the zoning, such as to build a home? …

City Mistakes on Zoning Requirement Adds to Financial Hardship Not rated yet
My family has owned a mobile home park for over 10 years now. After the flood of 2011 the basement of our two-story home began to cave in. We had …

How to grandfather a room addition Not rated yet
How do you grandfather an add-on to a house? I recently bought a house that had a patio enclosed without permits. Not knowing, I let a city inspector …

Home Occupation Zoning - Getting Neighborhood Support Not rated yet
I am interested in amending the Residential Zoning code of our village to allow home-based businesses. I have a personal feeling that it is the right …

Difference between RPUD zoning and condominium zoning Not rated yet
What is the difference between RPUD zoning and condominium zoning? Editors' Reply: RPUD commonly stands for Residential Planned Unit Development …

Recreation Zones--Benefits and Detriments Not rated yet
What is the purpose of a recreation zone? Is it to prevent certain uses or to enhance multiple use? Editors' Reply: Let's hope we're answering …

Suitable Zones to Build Private School Not rated yet
In Contra Costa (East Bay), can I build a private school in a very-low-density,residential-zoned land with multiple lots? Editors' Reply: Carlos, …

Grandfathered Zoning Not rated yet
I bought a house that is ten feet from the south side property line and is angled to the north. This allows room to add a detached garage on the south …

Permit for Church Services in a Home Not rated yet
I have a neighbor that is holding church services in his home and we can not park our car. Do they need a permit to hold services in their home? Editors' …

Can zoning be changed without notification Not rated yet
Can the planning and zoning department change the zoning on my property without any notification? Editors' Reply: Oh, this really shouldn't happen. …

Canopy Violation Not rated yet
Do I have to pull a permit for a 10' by 20' canopy which is assembled at the back of my house? I have to pull a permit or remove it. Can I remove it late …

Click here to write your own.


> > Zoning


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required