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What is the Importance of Local Zoning Laws?

Zoning allows local governments to regulate how certain areas under their jurisdiction may use their real estate or land for particular purposes.  Zoning can also provide the opportunity to stimulate or slow down development in specific areas or prevent new development from interfering with existing uses in order to preserve the “character” of a community.

Each town or city typically tends to create redevelopment plans over time with the intention of gentrifying or “building up” their communities. This may also be a tactic to reduce or increase the flow of traffic or manage noise levels in certain areas.


Some zoning classifications include residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial, or hotel/hospitality.  Depending on specific zoning regulations, these types may be used in combination.

And No, a zoning classification is not set in stone.  So, don’t assume that because you are in a residential-use-only zone that the vacant lot sitting across the street cannot be used for a bed and breakfast.  Zoning laws can be and have been modified for exceptions to be made.


Although zoning rules vary greatly by region, their general shared purpose is to separate residential properties from commercial properties.  These ordinances are to prevent oil refineries, manufacturing plants or other types of businesses from building in residential neighborhoods.  In some instances, these laws can be modified or suspended, if construction of the property serves an advantage to the community, such as advancing it economically.  It’s also not uncommon to find that zoning rules that apply to one part of the community are different in another part of the town, or that one town does a mix of residential uses with some commercial uses, yet a neighboring community might outlaw such a mix.

Besides restricting the land use, zoning laws may also regulate the dimensional requirements of the lot and structure on the property.  Such restrictions may include minimum lot area, off-street parking, the number of buildings on a lot and the number of dwelling units in a certain area.  Regulations may also restrict certain areas to only single-family homes, multi-family dwellings or townhouses.  In areas of historic or cultural significance, zoning regulations may require that those features be preserved.

Did you know that the presence of zoning restrictions can also influence prices when purchasing property?  It certainly can!  Some real estate could even be sold at a premium, depending on local zoning laws or if the town’s “master plan” calls for redevelopment and gentrification.

If you are considering purchasing a new property or making improvements to an existing one, it’s essential to understand the zoning rights attached to the land.  Otherwise, you may end up with a property that is not zoned for its intended use.  Before making any real estate purchase, please consult with an attorney versed in zoning law.

John Libretti is a Financial Analyst at Progress Capital and is not only available to advise you on any real estate investment you are considering, but can also provide the financing advice you need to manage through the commercial real estate acquisition and/or financing process.

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