Understanding Zoning Regulations and Land Use Restrictions | United Country Real Estate

August 10, 2023
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Unraveling the intricacies of zoning laws and land use restrictions. Contact United Country Real Estate for more information.

Zoning Regulations & Land Use Restrictions for Farm Property There are several considerations that need to be kept in mind when planning farm operations, and zoning regulations are one of the most important factors that can dictate the choices that a farmer makes for their land and agricultural business. Zoning laws have an impact on all parts of farm management, as they state both how land can be developed and what it is used for. Although zoning laws can have a wide effect on land use and development, they can vary between local jurisdictions. This can make navigating zoning regulations unclear. Here is an overview of zoning regulations to help with navigating and adhering to local ordinances, including various types of zones and how they impact any farm property. What are Zoning Regulations? To help keep areas organized and protect certain types of land or property, most cities, municipalities, or counties have their own set of zoning regulations in place. Zoning regulations (also known as “zoning laws” or “zoning ordinances”) refer to specific requirements for the categories of properties that can coexist in certain areas of a given county. These laws divide land into different “zones” or “zoning districts,” which comprise of certain kinds of like properties. Each type of zone has unique rules that determine what is an acceptable use of land in that area. While jurisdictions occasionally allow “variances” in zoning laws, not complying with these guidelines can result in penalties, which makes zoning an important consideration during the farm purchase or development process. Along with designating areas into different zoning districts, zoning laws can regulate additional aspects of development, such as building dimensions, density of construction, and the ability to have certain animals on site. Having different zones in place helps municipalities promote orderly development and protect certain areas, which ultimately serves the best interest of the community. Types of Zoning Regulations There are multiple types of zoning regulations that are common across different jurisdictions. Having them helps local governments keep municipalities organized and protects important areas of land or property. Given that all different zones have their own sets of rules and regulations, having a knowledge of your local requirements and restrictions will help you better adhere to zoning laws and understand what their purpose is. • Residential: Residential zones organize different personal residences within a certain municipality. Some examples of these include single-family residences, apartments, condos, trailer parks, and even home-based businesses. • Commercial: Commercial zoning laws organize a certain city’s businesses. Types of businesses/units that typically fall under commercial zoning regulations can include office buildings, shopping centers, hotels, restaurants, and even vacant land that has the potential for business development. • Industrial: Industrial zones control businesses that serve in an industrial capacity, such as warehouses, manufacturing facilities, airports, and storage facilities. These are typically determined by factors like noise level and air quality, which means that industrial zones are usually placed away from a municipality’s residential zones. • Historic: Historic zones can be used to provide protection for any areas of a municipality that have significant historic value. These zones aim to provide protection for these historic buildings. • Agricultural: Agricultural zones are designated to protect a municipality’s agricultural industry. This often restricts the non-farm use of any land that falls under these zones. Agricultural Zoning The most vital kind of zoning regulation to be familiar with as a current or prospective farmer is the agricultural zoning district. Agricultural zoning exists as a method of land management that is aimed at encouraging farming as well as discouraging any non-agricultural uses that aren’t compatible with farm operations. While the goal of other kinds of zoning like residential and commercial is to organize similar kinds of structures/properties together, agricultural zoning is meant to preserve farmland from urban sprawl. However, in addition to protecting agricultural land, agricultural zoning also regulates what kinds of activities and structures can occur on the designated land. As a result, it is vital to be familiar with the local agricultural zoning laws to ensure the farm in question is operating in a legal manner. The Impact of Zoning Regulations on Farming Guidelines put into place by agricultural zoning mean that zoning laws have a huge impact on farming. The regulations of any given zone are equally responsible for what is allowed as well as what is restricted, making them especially pertinent to industries such as farming. Agricultural zoning laws can potentially influence what types of operations can be done on a farm, so having a working knowledge of local zoning ordinances is crucial. Within agricultural zones, there can be restrictions and prohibitions on land use for non-agricultural activities, agritourism, the kinds of structures that can be built, minimum lot size, setback requirements, density, and environmental concerns. These are just some of the examples of land use regulations and restrictions that can occur under agricultural zoning laws. Since regulations and limitations can vary between jurisdictions, it is best to check with your local agency to ensure that they are being properly followed. Although investigating agricultural zoning requirements can be daunting, they are an important part of ensuring that farms operate legally and are contributing positively to the community.