What is Zoning?

What Zoning Is
Zoning is a type of regulation that is used by most cities to implement the adopted Comprehensive Plan. Zoning encourages the kind of land development that is indicated in the policies and maps of the plan. Zoning regulations also provide a guide on how property owners can use their land in the best interests of public health, safety, or general welfare.

Historically, zoning has been used to separate different types of land uses that are incompatible with each other, like the lead smelter next to a residential neighborhood. Zoning standards are established to make sure that neighboring properties do not block light and air and to prevent overcrowding or traffic congestion. Zoning is also intended to reserve sufficient land for developers and builders to provide facilities for people to live, work, shop and play.

Helping Government
Zoning helps government entities determine the location and size of major streets, the size of water and sewer lines and the best locations for parks, schools and fire stations. The general idea is that if the community accepts some restrictions on individual property rights, there is more assurance that everyone's use, enjoyment and property value are better protected.

Zoning Restrictions
Zoning restrictions must be reasonable, applied in a uniform manner and established through a system that guarantees due process for all affected parties. The federal bill of rights, state statutes and more than a century of court decisions all affect how land use can be regulated. Generally, private property owners have the right to put their land to some economically viable use, though not necessarily the most profitable use. If the land use restriction imposed by local government leaves no viable use, prohibits investment-based expectations, contradicts state or federal law, violates principles of due process or appears arbitrary and unreasonable, it is likely to be overturned by a court challenge.

Zoning regulations consist of a text (Title 16 of the Municipal Code) and an official map which divides the community into various districts. The parcels in each district have a separate set of rules explained in the text which specify the kinds of uses allowed and the density of the uses, including:
  • Amount of land required for every dwelling unit
  • Size of the buildings that can be built
  • Distance from neighbors and the street
  • Amount of parking required
Hot Springs has 18 zoning districts, including several intended mainly for single-family and two-family residences, several for apartment development, and others for office, commercial, and industrial uses.