Changing the Property Zoning Map

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Zoning codes classify areas for business use, residential use, or other specific purposes, but a zoning map is by no means permanent. Zoning laws can change as often as the particular needs of the zoned area change. Many zoning regulations attempt to take into account the area’s history of zoning to minimize discrepancies between current regulations and current needs.

Flexibility of Zoning Laws

In ideal situations, zoning maps follow some sort of logical pattern. Residential zoning codes and commercial zoning codes are mapped out separately, and business districts are separated from stores, homes, and other areas. But these codes don’t always reflect the reality of city layouts, so the zoning decisions that are made are often based on an area’s activity. Consider a residential zoning map that shows a broad section of empty space. Though the zoning board typically prefers to keep an undefined area within a residential district zoned for residential use, the board would consider changing the designation to commercial zoning, if there is a strong indication the community would benefit by allowing a commercial enterprise to use the empty space. Most of the time, converting an area to commercial use is preferable to leaving it unused. Zoning codes typically reflect the government’s attempt to build up trade and save the city money.

Land Ownership and Property Zoning Codes

The variability of zoning maps can cause problems for landowners. If the home buyer in a residential neighborhood is distressed to find that a store is moving in next door, he can always contact a lawyer to find out his legal rights and options because of what he believes is unfair zoning. But zoning decisions can also be beneficial. If the home owner lives on a beautiful piece of land, but always hated the gas station across the street, there is always the possibility the land will be sold and re-zoned for residential use.


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