Land Use: Traditional Approaches
The regulation of land use is a primary function of local governments. Planning departments oversee and shape much of the regulation related to land use as they address issues such as infill development, neighborhood master plans, transportation, housing, economic development, and zoning.
Local governments rely on zoning, which is permitting specific types of activities in designated geographic areas, to guide community development. Below are the primary types of municipal zones:
Provides areas of residential development at various specified building and population densities. The residential zones are intended to accommodate a variety of housing types and to encourage the provision of housing for all citizens. Mid-century government policies and widespread car ownership made low density suburban development possible. This development form, commonly called sprawl, has become the default pattern for much development.
Provides for the employment, shopping, services, recreation and lodging needs of the residents and visitors to the city. In the later half of the 20th century, the delivery of these services has been designed to accommodate the automobile as the primary form of transportation by consumers.
Reserved for institutions of a community: city hall, churches, schools, libraries and public spaces such as plazas, amphitheaters and town squares. In recent decades these buildings and spaces have grown in size and tended to be placed on highways in a manner similar to commercial uses. Traditionally, these institutions held the most prominent locations: hilltops, street termini and town centers.
Accommodates a range of industrial and manufacturing activities in designated areas to promote a balanced land use and economy and to encourage employment growth. The industrial zones are intended to provide flexibility in the design of new and redeveloped industrial projects while limiting incompatible uses. The trend toward larger industrial facilities has led to projects with high impacts on local water and habitat resources.
Open Space Zones
Protects lands for outdoor recreation, education, and scenic and visual enjoyment; Controls urban form and design; and facilitates the preservation of environmentally sensitive lands. These zones are applied to lands where the primary uses are parks or open space or to private land where development must be limited to protect the public health, safety, and welfare. The impacts of our choice of development patterns on environmentally sensitive lands have only recently become evident.
Agricultural Land Zones
Provides for areas that are rural in character or areas where agricultural uses are currently desirable. The agricultural zones are intended to accommodate a wide range of agriculture and agriculture-related uses. Often residential development is allowed in agricultural areas at densities as high as one unit per acre. Densities higher than one unit per 20 acres have proven incompatible with agriculture and with rural character.