Down Zoning

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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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Down zoning is the process by which an area of land is rezoned to a usage that is less dense and less developed than its previous usage. This is typically done to limit sprawl and overgrowth of cities, and to help concentrate areas of development into smaller sections to prevent over zoning a community.

Purpose of Down Zoning

In terms of urban development, down zoning is a somewhat unique concept. On its face, it tends to be going in the opposite direction of what is ordinarily considered progress. However, if the community’s goal is to downsize and prevent sprawl from taking traffic away from downtown, or to prevent overbuilding the city boundaries in a way that will sprawl into surrounding suburbs, down zoning is considered a positive change to redirect life back into the city center and remove eyesores that can result from overbuilt areas.

Examples of Down Zoning

Down zoning may occur when an area that is built up with large apartment buildings is cleared, and the area is rebuilt with single-family homes or smaller multi-family units. Another example of down zoning is the rebuilding of a large area of shopping malls to single-building shops and restaurants, or a large industrial area rebuilt as retail shops. 

The Effect of Down Zoning on a Landowner

Down zoning can create a problem if you happen to live or own a building in the area that is being zoned down. If this occurs, in some cases, you will be “grandfathered” in, which means you will be able to continue to use the land for the same purpose you were using as before the zoning change. While being grandfathered in won’t happen in every instance, this is often the best way to protect existing interests when zoning regulations change. 

Getting Help With Zoning Codes

If you are facing down zoning in your area, consider getting advice from a local zoning attorney on your property rights and options to protect yourself in the face of down zoning.

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