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Zoning Checklist

logoZoning ordinances are the number one regulatory barrier to residential rehabilitation.

The combination of small lot size and zoning ordinances written for large-lot suburban communities often present a major barrier to remodeling and additions. However, there are a techniques communities can employ to make their zoning regulations more accommodating to remodeling and additions.

Zoning Regulations Checklist

This checklist is a guide for local governments that want to consider changes to their current zoning ordinance to accommodate residential remodeling. A community does not have to act on every item, but it should consider each item.

  • Does the city’s zoning ordinance restrict rehabilitation and, if so, how?
    • Ways a zoning ordinance can inhibit rehabilitation include:
      • Setback restrictions preventing the addition of front porches
      • Setback and lot coverage restrictions preventing additions
      • Restrictions regarding detached buildings
  • Does the city’s zoning ordinance allow for variances or provide flexibility in other ways that allows the above restrictions to be avoided when warranted?
  • Which of these restrictions create the most problems, and how might they be modified?
    • Solicit input from residents and remodelers. The city’s planning director, neighborhood or homeowner association representatives, and representatives of the remodeling community should sit down and review the current zoning ordinance to identify specific sections that present problems for rehabilitation. How can these problems be overcome?
    • Some questions that should be addressed include:
      • What kind of improvements does the community want to promote?
      • How does the current zoning ordinance accommodate these kinds of improvements?
      • What changes should be made in the zoning ordinances requirements?
      • What changes should be made in the approval process for residential rehabilitation projects?
  • What approaches are available to the community to address these issues?
    • Discuss with residents and remodelers potential approaches to resolving these problems.
  • Based on the information developed above, does the city want to adopt a revised zoning ordinance that is more accommodating to remodeling and additions?

Zoning Techniques

Mixed-use development
Allows a balance of office, commercial and residential uses in close proximity, which reduces amount of commuting necessary

Accessory dwelling units
Allows residents in single-family neighborhoods to build second units on their property, which increases density without compromising neighborhood character

Zero-lot line zoning
Allows owners of small lots to build directly on a lot line to maximize available space