How To Fight Bad Zoning
If you’re seeking help to fight bad zoning anywhere in the USA then contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 (call-text) or Help@ceds.org for an initial no-cost discussion of strategy options. Please don’t hesitate. Delay almost always decreases the likelihood of success. Zoning is a critical tool for getting the benefits of growth while minimizing growing pains. But in some communities, zoning is used to benefit specific property owners or special interests at the expense of overall quality of life. If you believe that a proposed rezoning, zoning amendment, conditional use-special exception permit or other zoning-related action threatens your quality of life then contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org. Our advice on how to fight bad zoning is available free of charge to citizens seeking to preserve a neighborhood or the environment from flawed zoning decisions. To see an example of a CEDS zoning analysis click on: Birch Lake.
What Is Zoning?Through zoning a locality (town, city or county) decides how each parcel of land can be used. Ideally, zoning minimizes the potential for conflicts with other, nearby residents-property owners with the fewest restrictions on how each property can be used. However, some restrictions are essential and commonly include:
- the uses allowed on each property;
- how close homes and other buildings can be to one another;
- building height;
- how many homes can be built on a property;
- how much of a property can be covered by buildings; and
- limits on potential nuisances due to noise, lighting or dust.
By-Right or Permitted UsesThe ordinance will list uses allowed by right within each zoning district. By-right uses are distinguished from those that require a special-exception or conditional-use permit. By-right uses are frequently called permitted uses. The by-right uses can usually approved by a local planning commission or staff. Uses requiring a special-exception or conditional-use permit are usually subject to a more formal legal hearing.
Accessory UsesThese are activities that are allowed as a normal part of the principal uses permitted within a zoning district. For example, swimming pools and parking would be allowed within residential districts though restrictions may apply to the size of these and other accessory uses.
Conditional Use, Special Use & Special Exception PermitsActivities allowed with a Conditional-Use or Special-Exception permit are usually compatible with the other uses allowed within a zoning district. Occasionally though these uses can cause a conflict. Because of this a more thorough review process is required before a Conditional or Special Exception Use can be pursued. The process frequently includes a more formal legal proceeding. For further detail see the CEDS webpage for: Conditional-Use or Special-Exception Permits. Frequently zoning districts are grouped into categories such as:
- Residential; Commercial; and Industrial or Manufacturing.
- Rural, large-lots such as one house per 2- to 20-acres;
- Single-family detached homes at a density of one, two, three or four per acre;
- Single-family attached homes, which could be duplexes but are more likely to be townhouses; and
- Apartment buildings.
Zoning At Its BestWhen it works well zoning guides new development to sites where benefits will be maximized without detracting from the use and enjoyment of those owning adjoining lands or the community as a whole. When done well, zoning helps to achieve the following goals:
- incompatible uses are not allowed near one another (e.g. industrial zones don’t abut residential zoning districts);
- the pace of growth does not cause school overcrowding, traffic congestion, sewer overflows, water shortages, or overwhelm police, fire, ambulance and other emergency services;
- areas dominated by working farms or sensitive environmental resources are zoned for very low density development;
- thru-traffic on residential streets is not increased;
- commercial and industrial uses do not disrupt neighborhoods with excessive noise, light, dust, or odors;
- residential zoning districts are laid out to facilitate mass transit, walking, and bicycling for both existing and new neighborhoods;
- sufficient open space is retained to accommodate active-passive recreation needs;
- new development is directed to compact growth areas where density is kept high to keep property taxes low, preserve rural lands, facilitate mass transit, etc.;
- residential zoning districts consist of a diversity of housing types with respect to affordability, size, targeted age-range, etc.; and
- all of the uses a community needs are allowed somewhere within the town, city or county.