You Can Ask Your Zoning Questions Here

Last Reviewed: June 20, 2024

Since we just can't write pages about all possible zoning questions, and since that would be pretty boring for you to hear only our voice on this complex subject, we decided it is time to answer what seems important to our visitors. Further down on this page, use the form to ask your zoning questions; the result will be a dedicated web page showing your question and our answer.  Alternatively, you can see the questions that others have asked, together with answers from the editors and/or other visitors, by checking out the links below.

single-family home with fence that might raise zoning questions

Land use zoning questions might concern the different categories, which are called "districts" even when they are not adjacent to one another, that your locality chooses to use.  Some are much more common than others, so below you may see a reference to an unusual land use classification or two.

Even more frequently, we field questions about the compatibility of a specific land use with adjacent land uses or the neighborhood in general. Churches, and religious services held in homes, seem to be the thorniest issue right now, judging by the number of questions on this topic that you folks have generated. This is a difficult subject for many neighborhoods, given the support of the U.S. courts for First Amendment rights of freedom of religion. Balancing that important consideration with traditional zoning practice, in which land uses that generate large quantities of traffic and noise are banned from residential neighborhoods, is a tricky task.

Another body of zoning questions concerns the process by which zoning is changed, whether proper notice is given to neighbors, and whether elected officials are acting appropriately. Other queries we have received and answered are more relevant to how citizens can fight back against unwanted zoning changes or how property owners can maximize the probabilities that they will receive a zoning change that they want.  Other visitors to our site are concerned about enforcement of the ordinance, or usually it is the lack of enforcement that becomes a problem.

Zoning questions also could focus in on appropriate setbacks in particular districts, building height regulations, or parking minimum requirements (but we urge maximum parking requirements, to encourage filtering of stormwater runoff, transit use, and a bikeable and walkable community.)

Many times sign regulations are part of the ordinance as well, and if we get started on that, we might have to split off that group of community development inquiries.

From listening to the critics of zoning throughout the planning and architecture professions right now, you would think that zoning questions were becoming a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, that is not so.  The average person who is slightly in the know about civic affairs has an idea of what the local zoning law covers.  But almost anyone can get lost in the weeds of all the intricate requirements and situations your local ordinance might mention. And those who pay little attention to municipal government definitely feel lost when confronted with an unwanted zoning change right in their own back yard.

Although our invitation form below asks if you want to leave a name and location, it's not essential.  For this purpose, you probably want to leave off your location—unless you really want public humiliation for your town government.  We do find it amusing that some visitors act this way, and perhaps they are well justified.

Just be aware that many zoning ordinances have" grown like topsy."   This expression means that the rationale behind some amendments that may have been lost over time, so the ordinance becomes too large and unwieldy.  And you don't pay attention until it affects you personally.

If a zoning law is impacting you personally, here is where you can ask about your specific situation and receive a general answer. We have to repeat that we are not attorneys and cannot give legal advice. As a general practice we don't go read your state law either, as we want to give the most common good advice that a planner would give to his or her next door neighbor.

If you're a professional in this field, this is where you can get a sense of what people find confusing.


What's Your Zoning Question?

Do you have a question about zoning? Or perhaps you have a question about something that is often covered in a zoning ordinance, such as building height, parking requirements, or special use permits. Ask anything, and if we think we can contribute to the answer or that other visitors will answer, it will appear on its own web page!

Other Questions and Answers

Click below to see contributions from other visitors.

Zoning Ordinance Rewrite 
Visitor Question: Our township in Pennsylvania just did a zoning ordinance rewrite. The township manager keeps saying it made just minor changes; yet …

City wants to change residential zoning to agricultural 
Visitor Question: I bought 13 acres to develop with housing. The property is zoned R-6, a residential category. Now the city wants to change the zoning …

Can I downzone in California 
Visitor Question: Can our City Council grant us a downzone in California from multi family residential to single family, in order to become eligible …

Gas station and historical property  
Visitor Question: Hi. Can I sue my city for disregarding their own ordinance about gas stations too close to homes and in view of an historical landmark? …

Using Church Land for Homeless Program 
Visitor Question: We have a significant issue with homelessness in our area, and in particular we have many families with children experiencing homelessness. …

Establishing a new location for church 
Visitor Question: Does a proposed church location have to be a certain number of feet away from a bar/strip club? Editors Reply: We cannot give …

Can a city itself apply for rezoning 
Reviewed: May 31, 2024 Visitor Question: In our town we have a weird situation. Our city council thinks they can just fill out a rezoning application …

Process to rezone property to industrial 
Visitor Question: The property I am asking about is on a busy road that connects to the second busiest road in the county. It backs up to the interstate. …

Witchcraft store 
Visitor Question: We have a rented retail storefront on the main street of our town. It sells all sorts of items used by witches and wiccans. What …

Can a developer's unfinished work be used against new rezoning proposal 
Visitor Question: I am a resident of a multi-phase development begun in 2017. This sits on a subdivision of large private land. Huge areas of mature …

Converting a storefront into a church 
Visitor Question: I have a building with four addresses, 2133-2135-2137-2139 W. Manchester Ave. I want to convert 2139 into a small church. What are …

Rezoning historic home to commercial 
Visitor Question: I live in a town of about 17,000 in a semi-rural setting. Our county is almost finished with a community plan update which focuses …

Annexation and re-zoning 
Visitor Question: I have a 15 acre property which is being annexed and potentially re-zoned from Pasco County, Florida to Dade City, Florida, but the …

Renting a commercial building for a church 
Visitor Question: We opened a home based new church/mission in Colton, CA City. Now the number of members has grown to about 24 people, thank God, and …

Illegal Spot Zoning and Illegal Use of Land 
Visitor Question: In 2017, the son of a township board member lived on property that was zoned A-1 Agricultural, which is one of the four "Residential" …

Can a City Deviate from Its Future Land Use Map 
Visitor Question: I'm wondering about when it is acceptable (or even legal) for a city to deviate from its adopted future land use map, which appears …

New Residence on Narrow Lot 
Visitor Question: What size lot is necessary for new residential structures in the Treme, District 2? I am interested in whether one can build between …

How does zoning pertain to condos? 
Visitor Question: I am wondering whether the zoning law covers our condos. If so, how does that work? It seems like my large community is sort of self-governing, …

Rezoning an entire town? 
Visitor Question: What criteria should be used when rezoning an entire town (e.g. criteria for each zoning district) ? Editors Reply: That is a …

Excessive regulation of boat docks 
Visitor Question: Our dock (considered as one) has two hoists on it. We have been using it this way since we've lived here (20 plus years). Now, our …

How to convert commercial property to residential  
Visitor Question: A friend of mine owns a building that is currently considered commercial property and wants to change it to residential. The land …

How often do cities update their zoning maps 
Visitor Question: Is there some sort of schedule when cities are required to update their zoning maps? It seems like the zoning gets applied here, and …

Are parks in a separate zoning district? 
Visitor Question: We are redoing our comprehensive plan in our town, and I am helping with some of the outreach to our residents. I wanted to know if …

Stop construction on vacant land next door. 
Visitor Question: The property next door to me was recently purchased by a developer who intends to build a house. The land is 2 sq ft short of being …

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How to stop construction of a three story building 
Visitor Question: How does a town stop the construction of a three-story building? Currently, the first request by the applicant to the town was denied, …

Which zoning district typically has greater setbacks 
Visitor Question: Out of employment zones, commercial zones, and residential zones which one is most likely to have higher values for setbacks AND why? …

How Far from Property Line Should Trees Be 
Visitor Question: How far from someone's property line does someone have to be in order to plant large growing trees? Editors Reply: In most places, …

Can a church meet in a building that is zoned industrial? 
Visitor Question: I am a member of a local church congregation (less than 100 people) that has been meeting in a school gymnasium. Due to Covid-19, …

Special exception for commercial tree company 
Visitor Question: A commercial tree company has filed for a special exception next door to me in our rural residential town. It would be completely out …

Zoning definition changes after development platted 
Visitor Question: The housing area I am building in now is zoned R36. At the time all of my neighbors built their houses, the offsets from property …

Rezoning commercial social club to a restaurant 
Visitor Question: I'm turning a commercial building that used to be a social club and other public events building into a restaurant. I have a meeting …

Are counties subject to municipal zoning 
Visitor Question: Are counties subject to a municipality's zoning ordinance? Our county government is proposing a new recreation center, and they claim …

Zoning of house not disclosed 
Visitor Question: I found out after I closed on my house that it is in a zone for redevelopment. It was never disclosed. Do I have any recourse? I never …

Permitted Uses on Nonprofit Property 
Visitor Question: Our nonprofit owns and is located on property that was formerly charter school property. Initially, the land was zoned with a special …

Grandfathered housing development zoning  
Visitor Question: Does the owner have any legal problems if his density is more than the R-3 zoning? The owner wants to rezone his property to R-4 to …

Neighborhood commercial to commercial zoning 
Visitor Question: Without any notice, the township rezoned us from neighborhood commercial to straight commercial. We found out because of our tax increase. …

Adverse Possession or Easement Road 
Visitor Question: A paved road extends from two city public streets across a privately owned lot which has been used by the public, police, fire and …

Minimum hours of operation in commercial zone 
Visitor Question: I live in a town that has a lot of vacant buildings in the historic downtown core. It is zoned commercial but because rents are so …

How to stop a variance  
Visitor Question: My town has been underhanded about a piece of property that the Catholic Church owns and now wants to profit off this land by building …

Can we be forced to stop renting through Airbnb  
Visitor Question: We just received a warning to stop doing short term rentals. To cut a long story short, my husband was involved in a bad accident a …

How to grandfather a room addition  
Visitor Question: I bought my house in 1980. It has 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. Recently someone reported to the city that I had people living in my garage. …

Overnight stay in a place of worship 
Visitor Question Our mosque sits in a commercial district and received zoning approval as a place of worship. The application was simple, and it states …

How many people can legally attend a residential fellowship 
Visitor Question: Hi, I am curious as to how many people can attend a residential fellowship. There are no monetary offerings, but we do host a church …

Timing of an Accessory Structure  
Visitor Question: Are there any examples of ordinance language that restricts the building of an accessory structure (garage, pole barn, shed) before …

Tiny house village on church property 
Visitor Question: Is it legal to build a community of tiny houses for the homeless on church property if it is zoned r-1 (residential) and the property …

100 foot setback requirement for churches 
Visitor Question: Our city has a 100' encroachment rule for new churches. They measure the furthest edge of the building to the nearest property line. …

Numerous Small Town Ordinance Violations 
Visitor Question: The neighbors got together and revoked the CC&R's during a law suit to clean up the properties. We are now under the local County's …

Gas station in residential area  
Visitor Question: I've seen that in residential areas where a gas station is near neighborhood homes, the gas station causes problems of daily living. …

Can the Town Board deny a petition without a public hearing 
Visitor Question: Our town board had three landowners ask to have their land changed from 3 acre residential to commercial zoning. Can the town deny …

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Does approved site plan have to conform with new zoning code 
Visitor Question: A storage facility submitted a site plan in 1996. They are going to erect the final building this year, 2019. We are being told that …

No Building Permit 
Visitor Question: A residential homeowner and their contractor built a patio roof onto an existing detached garage. And an extension of the patio roof …

Zoning setbacks for replacing a structure 
Visitor Question: We are planning a remodel of our home and part of our plan is to rebuild our garage and make it wider. The garage would not move closer …

Rezoning from business to residential 
Visitor Question: A friend inherited an office from her father. She has been renting it to an attorney. It is located in a residential area, but has …

Down zone of property without notice 
Visitor Question: Must a landowner be personally notified that his property is being Down-zoned? I bought two parcels of property totaling about 120 …

How to rezone residential property for more units 
Visitor Question: I have property which includes three rentals. The buildings are very old. I would like to tear them down and build 4-5 small efficiency …

Paid to rezone then city did blanket rezoning 
Visitor Question: I paid to have my property zoned for a secondary suite. Then the city arbitrarily did a blanket rezone and established the same zoning …

Bad idea to rezone from residential to affordable housing 
Visitor Question: My family owns property in New Jersey that is currently zoned residential but is being used for business because our business has been …

Industrial Wind Turbines in R1 District 
Visitor Question: Penn Forest Township is a rural municipality in Carbon County, PA. Two applications were submitted seeking to erect 30+ wind turbines …

Church sold lots and cannot meet parking requirement 
Visitor Question: I have general questions. A large church congregation owns several parcels in a half-residential/half-office zoned area. It then sells …

Property rezoned after purchase 
Visitor Question: I purchased a 1 acre piece of property in west central Georgia on 7/6/2018 through the Property for Sale-Georgia State Properties Commission …

Can code enforcement make me move 
Visitor Question: I live in a good size travel trailer outside of the city limits at the end of a privately owned dirt road, out of sight from any type …

Church in R1 zoning to be a house  
Visitor's Question: A church building lies on property zoned R1 in a residential neighborhood. It has always been a church as far as we know. The church …

Zoning Board of Appeals reverses course 
Visitor Question: The code is clear in West Bloomfield, MI. It states that if you own multiple lots and sell off a nonconforming lot (70 foot minimum …

Conditional Use Permit Did Not State Hours of Operation 
Visitor Question: There is a building that is on property that is zoned residential and is surrounded by residentially zoned property. The city does …

Should Family Farm Zoning Have Been Revealed 
Visitor Question: Neighbors are claiming a property was sold to them without being told it had a family farm designation, and now they want to break …

Home church with sail sign 
Visitor Question: I have a neighbor that is holding church services in their home on Sundays, but now they have a large sign that looks like a sail advertising …

How to Justify Rezoning My Home to Commercial 
Visitor Question: I am trying to sell my home, but I want to rezone to commercial because of my location. I am surrounded by business. Both neighbors …

Denial of LED Sign 
Visitor Question: Background: Our church council president recently went before the city planning commission to ask for 3 variances for a new LED messaging …

Zoning for More Long Term Rentals 
Visitor Question: How would a commercial zone condo association change its zoning laws to be more of a subdivision with longer rentals (no short term) …

Commercial Rezoning Violates Covenants 
Visitor Question: I live in a residential subdivision in Tennessee. Recently, the road to the subdivision was widened to 5 lanes and the land immediately …

Cellular Antennas on Historic Buildings 
Visitor Question: A new local project development consists of a total renovation of a former factory building into condominiums. The building has historical …

Best Zoning for a Ministry 
Visitor Question: Our ministry has been gifted a piece of property that currently has 3 different zonings. A small piece is 02, a section is HE and the …

Rehab Center in Residential Neighborhood 
Reviewed: May 31, 2024 Visitor Question: An application has been submitted to our land use board asking that a private residential property be rezoned …

Ballot initiative downzoning a land parcel  
Visitor Question: A ballot initiative by the citizens of Aurora, CO down zoned a 10 acre parcel of land some years ago, and now a developer wants to …

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Replacement of Non-Conforming Structure 
Visitor Question: Is it possible (i.e. legal) to tear down a non-conforming structure (over 95%, Ordinance says over "75% replacement must fully comply …

Residential to Commercial Rezoning 
Visitor Question: I live on a major road on the outside of a subdivision. There are businesses across the street from me. My question is how do I have …

Does church-related school require a conditional use permit 
Visitor Question: Our church is currently zoned institutional and has been operating for over 50 years. We would like to add a small private school …

Improper Notification of Zoning Variance 
Visitor Question: My question is about a zoning variance. In this town you must notify all neighboring properties within 150 feet. One neighboring property …

Rezoning When Deed Restrictions Prohibit Activity 
Visitor Question: Can township zoning appeals rezone a 1/2 acre lot in the middle of residential develop to agricultural? I am in Ohio without an HOA. …

Rezoned Property Not Following Regulations 
Visitor Question: If the Township granted a zoning amendment that would violate the new zoning district, for example changing agriculture/residential …

How to Plead My Case on a Re-zoning 
Visitor Question: There are 7 property owners with 8 lots in our subdivision (we are all on 6-8 acre lots). One of the property owners wants to develop …

Are Townhomes Spot Zoning? 
Visitor Question: There is a parcel of land, 3.3 acres on the western edge of our neighborhood. The neighborhood is all single family homes (R5). This …

Church Parking Lot Leased for Business Parking 
Visitor Question: We live near a church which is located in a residential area. The church main parking lot holds about 200 cars. The have leased about …

Using an Apartment to Conduct Church Services 
Visitor Question: Can my neighbor legally use her rented apartment to conduct church services for more than 50 people in Connecticut every Sunday? …

Gas Station Next to My House 
Visitor Says: Hi my name is Yanci Arreola. I've lived in Safford AZ for 3 years. About 2 years ago we had a realtor come up to us trying to buy our …

Commercial Church Kitchen as Food Truck Commissary 
Visitor Question: We have spent three years upgrading our church kitchen to meet Health Department requirements for a Commercial Kitchen. Now that …

Restricting Times of Church Worship 
Visitor Question: A church in our town has been approved to buy an old college campus church. During the C.U.P. process they wanted a condition, "The …

Illegal Fence Disagreement  
Visitor Question: I purchased a single family home last year with one acre. The home borders 13 acres of open fields that went with the house before the …

How to Object to Neighbor's Variance 
Visitor Question: I live in a condo and my building got a use variance to build to full lot coverage in 2005. My condo is in the residential zone (R-1) …

More Church Zoning Questions 
At Useful Community Development we are receiving many questions about zoning for churches or church-related land uses. We already have answered several …

Zoning Permit for Signs? 
Visitor Question: What is the necessity of a zoning permit for signs, as compared to just a building permit? I am the planning and zoning director …

Auxiliary Land Improvement 
Visitor Question: I live in a residential area. Across the street there is a lot that is zoned residential but classed as an auxiliary land improvement. …

Spot Zoning for Rendering Plant 
Visitor Question: Application for a rendering plant requires a re zone to heavy industrial of the proposed site. Miles of surrounding property is zone …

Commercial driveway in a residential zone 
Visitor Question: I live in a small town on a block that is adjacent to the retail district. Zoning is r-3. On my side of the street there are only houses. …

Existing Businesses in an Incorporation 
Visitor Question: Our City incorporated in 2008. Many Rural Home Businesses had operated from home successfully for more than forty years. The home …

Why aren't streams included in zoning? 
Visitor Question: Where are streams and creeks in the zoning guidelines? Editors' Reply: That's an excellent question, and the main reason seems …

Legal Problems Due to Starting Petition 
Visitor Asks: What are the legal repercussions of starting a petition? Can I be sued if I start a petition against a rezoning for a certain development? …

Using building as a church 
Can any building be used as a church? Editors Reply: The practical answer to this question is no. In theory, as you know if you read our church …

Typical Percentage of Land Uses 
Last Reviewed: June 14, 2024 Visitor Question: What proportion of the land in cities and towns typically is taken up by each type of land use? …

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Counseling Business in a Residence 
Visitor Question: My neighborhood is zoned R1-8. A neighbor moved in across the street and is conducting counseling (individual and group) out of the …

Stopping an unwanted business 
Visitor Question: I live in a small rural village. The downtown area is a mix of small businesses and residential. There is a developer who wants …

Churches in Single Family Neighborhood 
Visitor Question: If a church is approved for an existing low density single family home neighborhood, is it treated the same as every other resident …

Business Conditional Use Permit next to home and farm. 
Visitor Question: I live in a rural/agricultural area. I own 55 acres of pasture and farm ground. My only visible neighbor now owns my parents' place …

Do I need a permit to start using my house as a church? 
Visitor Question: My city has planning and building departments and Conditional Use Permits. Do I need a conditional use permit to start using my residential …

Zoning for Church Next Door 
Visitor Question: A pastor is running a church out of his home in a neighborhood,and there are problems with traffic and kids acting like nuisance bullies. …

Family reunion rental in single-family zoning? 
Visitor Question: A 17,000 square foot home is under construction as a "single family residence" in our quiet residential area. It has come to our attention …

How rezoning affects property value 
Visitor Question: I currently live in a subdivision that is divided into 5 acre tracts and zoned as rural residential. Currently a rezoning R-1 has …

Fighting Hotel Zoning 
Visitor Question: My neighborhood has changed considerably over the years. I live in a residential community that allows hotels; however, there is only …

Zoning Changes on Private Property 
Last Updated: August 8, 2020 Visitor Question: Can a city change my private property zoning classification without my permission? Editors' Response: …

Legislative Intent in Amending Zoning Code 
Visitor Question: Is it necessary for a municipality to explicitly state its legislative intent when amending its zoning code? A municipality has …

Church Property Rezoning 
Visitor Question: Must a property bearing a place of worship always be a place of worship? Or may it be sold for any use permitted by the zoning, such …

City Mistake on Zoning Requirement Adds to Financial Hardship 
Visitor Question: My family has owned a mobile home park for over 10 years now. After the flood of 2011 the basement of our two-story home began to cave …

How to grandfather a room addition 
Visitor Question: How do you grandfather an add-on to a house? I recently bought a house that had a patio enclosed without permits. Not knowing, I let …

Home Occupation Zoning - Getting Neighborhood Support 
Visitor Question: I am interested in amending the Residential Zoning code of our village to allow home-based businesses. I have a personal feeling …

Difference between RPUD zoning and condominium zoning 
Visitor Question: What is the difference between RPUD zoning and condominium zoning? Editors' Reply: RPUD commonly stands for Residential Planned …

Recreation Zones--Benefits and Detriments 
Visitor Question: What is the purpose of a recreation zone? Is it to prevent certain uses or to enhance multiple use? Editors' Reply: Let's hope …

Suitable Zones to Build Private School 
Visitor Question: In Contra Costa (East Bay), can I build a private school in a very-low-density,residential-zoned land with multiple lots? Editors' …

Grandfathered Zoning 
Visitor Question: I bought a house that is ten feet from the south side property line and is angled to the north. This allows room to add a detached …

Permit for Church Services in a Home 
Last Updated: August 8, 2020 Visitor Question: I have a neighbor that is holding church services in his home and we can not park our car. Do they …

Church buying residence to use for youth center does zoning allow 
Visitor Question: A church on the next block over has purchased the house behind ours. We asked some people coming out of the church what they intended …

Can zoning be changed without notification 
Visitor Question: Can the planning and zoning department change the zoning on my property without any notification? Editors' Reply: Oh, this …

Why is zoning important 
Visitor Question: I'm curious about why zoning is important in small cities. Wouldn't people make good decisions by themselves without zoning laws? …

Old industrial site and redevelopment 
Last Reviewed: May 23, 2024 Visitor Question: Is ownership of an old industrial site a constraint to redevelopment? I've been told that this commercial …

Canopy Violation 
Last Reviewed: June 17, 2024 Visitor Question: Do I have to pull a permit for a 10' by 20' canopy which is assembled at the back of my house? I have …

Click here to write your own.


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