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The Role of Zoning in Urban Development Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 5th, 2019


Zoning, as used in land utilization planning, involves designating permitted utilization of land depending on demarcated zones that distinguish one set of land utilization from another. The fundamental aim of zoning is to separate functions that cannot be harmonious and protect residential properties, as well as enterprises from developmental interference. It also protects the culture of a community.

The institutions involved in the zoning process include the local authorities like municipal and county councils mostly though it varies with countries. For instance, in Australia, Commonwealth land is not under regulation by the state, in Germany and France; however, zoning is under the regulation of the national and federal government.

In zoning, the ventures that the land can be put into are regulated, and such ventures include residential uses, agricultural purposes, commercial and industrial ventures. The state authorities use zoning as a tool of regulating private property so as to enhance economic development and growth.

The Zoning Process

The first step in the zoning process is the application conference. This is a meeting called upon by the Department of Planning and Zoning staff, as well as other departments to determine their specific development requirements (Walters 45).

The next step is where the proponent submits two filled application forms, availing all the supplemental information, a comprehensive site plan, and the necessary processing that is required.

“Upon receipt of the application, the planning and zoning department notifies the applicant of discrepancies if any, within fifteen days: If there are no errors, and the threshold for submission requirements is met, the application goes to public hearing” (Burke 22). The public hearing takes place before the Planning and Zoning Commission.

During the public hearing, other interested parties present their views that may be in favor of the application or be against it. The Planning Commission then makes its decisions and recommendations which it forwards to the County Council. Appeals or protests may be submitted to the City Council regarding the decisions arrived at by the Planning Commission to be looked at.

The Planning Commission at this point is required to review the Site Development Plan jointly with the Department of Public Works, and Highways and Traffic Department as was submitted by the applicant. The plan is reviewed if it complies with the permit conditions.

Bonds or escrows are established as a guarantee of improvements. Such improvements occur in the subdivision process and include water improvements, special landscaping and water detention improvements. After the initiation of the subdivision processing, the Zoning process is finalized.

Importance of Zoning in Urban Development

Zoning is a fundamental tool in any society that has its strategic plans to guide its growth and development. Zoning must be structured to adapt to the dynamic changes that occur in our lives and society at large. The various roles that zoning play in urban development include:

Appropriate Designation of land

Zoning regulations clearly define how land should be designated to various socio-economic activities of the region. This designation is aimed at avoiding conflicts between the various interested parties and the residents. Both land buyers and those who own land are able to know what to build and in which specific areas. For instance one is prohibited from building a factory within a residential area.

The zoning laws give a clear definition of the residential zone, commercial zones, and the recreational areas. Zoning is also important so as to avoid inconveniences and dangers posed to the residents occupying a certain area.

For instance, a shopping mall inside a residential zone would result in traffic congestion; thus, posing danger to infants within such areas (Burke 36). As such, individuals must consider the regulations before erecting structures so as to avoid conflict with the law governing zoning.

Ensure Easy Accessibility to Social Services

Zoning sets aside specific areas to be utilized for road construction and other means of transport. The social services like sporting, drama services, public health services and security operations have their designated areas. The reservation of certain areas for social services enhances easy access to the services. The development of infrastructure also fastens transport and enhances mobility of people and services.

Each of these facilities also has their preferred operating environments; for instance, schools must be located in a quiet surrounding to promote a learning atmosphere. On the other hand, recreational facilities are located in the city centre where most people can access them. Well maintained roads are very convenient to the passengers and the motorists because of efficiency (Walters 43).

Regulating the Use of Real Estates

Several municipal and county councils have established regulations to govern the development of Real Estates within their areas of jurisdiction. These councils are subdivided into zoning districts that allocate specific areas to specific socio-economic activities.

According to relevant sources, the zoning regulations that regulate the utilization of real property control their use in relation to specific boundaries at the industrial, commercial, as well as residential levels. The local council evaluates the character of the property and its suitability for the particular purpose.

The laws must be applied universally across the local council and not be applied selectively. These regulations may also dictate the kind of buildings to be built, the recommended height of buildings, the kind of accessory utilities to be constructed, and the amount of light that each building obstructs.

An Important Tool for Planners

Zoning is an exercise that involves the demarcation of a region into well defined functional areas. In connection, planners use zoning to determine population density and redistribute it whenever necessary if they appear to apply much stress on the available resources.

The relocation policy may also be applied so as to promote equitable development because when people resettle elsewhere, there are chances of town centers emerging; thus, attracting investors. Planners also use zoning as a method of enhancing the social and economic developments in society. It is used to distribute the various economic activities across the region.

For instance, most industries are located close to the source of raw material with an aim of reducing transport costs. Similarly, the service industry is mainly situated in the Central Business District where their demand is high and the people there have remarkable disposable income.

Protects Natural Resources of Farmland

The main farm-land protection policies applied by most governments include zoning, taxation, right-to-farm legislation and acquisition of development rights. The tax policies have proved fruitless, as they raise the area affected by impermanence syndrome. The right-to-farm legislation is enacted to protect farmers against unnecessary complaints from nearby residents.

Agricultural zoning is an instrumental way of protecting farmland in many countries. Under this plan, farmers are allowed to sell their development rights to the public, which provide them with more capital for investment purposes. On the contrary, some pessimists argue that the zoning results in public pressure where population growth rate is on an increase.

Zoning also recognizes the existence of natural resources like mines. Mineral mines always have their land reserved for them even if it means the locals must be displaced. This is to ensure the safety of the citizens should a calamity occur at the mining site. The forest reserves are always situated depending on the prevailing weather conditions that can sustain the forests naturally.

These reserves must be situated in zones that receive plenty of rainfall. In its planning, the local government must set prohibit settlement along the riverbanks. As such, there must be a defined perimeter from the river that people are not allowed to put up structures. The local government in its beautification program should set aside land for the beautification of the environment to give it an aesthetic value.

Future Growth and Development

The future considerations must be made in the zoning process. For instance in a developing nation, the zoning must take into account the possibility of expansion of the infrastructure, the upgrading of various slums, the emergence of other urban centers and deforestation to increase land available for industrial development.

Enforcing Building Codes

Building codes regulate the structural properties of a building and its safety. These codes are very essential in the most sensitive buildings that the host key economic activities and various dignitaries. These codes also ensure the stability and durability of a building. The codes are quite dynamic and change depending on the technological advancements.

Minimum Design Standards

The minimum designed standards as established by professional bodies are meant to ensure that buildings have the necessary aesthetic value as per international standards. These standards are also applied to ensure there is harmony in the architectural structures of a certain segment. Adherence to the set standards ensures a continuous development of safe and certified structures.


Zoning is a very crucial tool in connection of various zonal areas. The various zones as partitioned act as integration points for the various people in society as they go to look for the services offered by each division. The streets and highways constructed act as avenues for meeting new people and getting to know each other.

The recreational facilities that are designated to certain parts serve as meeting points for a diverse group of people. The constructed highways also facilitate the connectivity from one zone to another.

Zoning Ordinances

The main aim of zoning ordinances is to establish the recommended uses for land under the ordinance. It divides a region into different functional zones. The ordinances established should ensure sufficient light and air. They must also ensure easy access and safety from raging fire.

They must take into account policies that make the building free from flooding and enhance the flow of traffic in the highways. The ordinances also ensure that public health standards are observed. They must strive to provide comfort to the public and promote proper morals and general society welfare.

Analysis of Density

Zoning is used to analyze density of every aspect of life ranging from human beings, animals, vegetation, geographical features and housing. The density of the population is more in the most industrialized areas since these industries provide jobs and thus a source of livelihood (Gabroit 65). The density of residential houses in higher in the outskirts of the city where the environment is quiet.

The density of motor vehicles is higher in the dual carriage highways than the single carriage highways. The density of livestock is higher in the arid and semi-arid lands due to the pastoral communities that live in those areas. T he density of industries is higher in the industrial areas due to the zoning done by the government that designated those areas for industrial development.

Zoning as Used in Design

The design of various structures is influenced by the zoning policies put in place by the local government. For instance, houses of a particular design will be concentrated only in one region. The sky scrapers are mainly located at the city centers while residential apartments are situated in the residential zones.

The design of roads is also largely determined by the economic activities it supports. Superhighways that serve cross-border transit services are well maintained and designed as compared to feeder roads (Burke 29).

Encourage construction of affordable housing units

Once the zoning process has allocated a particular subdivision for a specific purpose, it is possible for investors in the construction industry to invest in the construction of affordable housing for the middle and low income groups. This leads to the emergence of affordable apartments for the residents.

Challenges Facing Zoning as a Development Tool

Zoning has led to the segregation of business areas and residential areas. It has also separated social housing from private housing. This has promoted the emergence of slums and shanties. The city centers have also witnessed the aging of their buildings due to the segregation because a reducing number of people travel to the city centre.

Insecurity also poses a challenge as people travel in masses mostly in the evenings and the buglers may take advantage of such situations. Another form of challenge comes in the form of discrimination racial, ethnic, economic or gender-based. Within the residential areas, some special interest groups may prefer to live as a community on their own (Gabriot 78).

Legislation Setbacks

One of the major setbacks in the zoning process is the fact that ordinances assume that division of land is usually a signal of an upcoming development (Burke 34). As a consequence, prospective buyers of such land will make more demands for the community public utilities. Another setback is the fact that property that was acquired before an ordinance came into force can only be given the nonconformities status.


This is a term used to refer to a zoned piece of land whose utilization existed before the new zoning rules were enacted (Burke 37). These uses may not conform to the new rules. The nonconformity may be based on usage, structural design and other legal requirements.


Zoning is a tool that the local and central governments can use to spur economic growth and development. It is also used to enhance socio-economic integration among people.

However, the allocation of land for specific purposes has led to scarcity of land and congestion of activities in the designated areas, leading to lack of competition among businesses and limitation on the available space for expansion. It has also led to urban sprawl and the development of slums and shanties.

Works Cited

Burke, Barlow. Understanding the Law of Zoning and Land Use Controls. South Melbourne: LexisNexis Press, 2002. Print.

Gabroit, Pascaline. European New Towns: Images, Identities, Future Perspectives. Brussels: Editions Scientific Internationales, 2010. Print.

Walters, David. Designing Community, Charrettes, Masterplans and Form-based Codes. London: Thomson Learning, 2007. Print.

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