Are Zoning Laws Restrictive or Necessary Regulations?


If you are planning a commercial construction project, you probably know that understanding zoning laws is essential. In Tampa and all American cities, zoning laws govern the use of land and regulate the development of real estate. Zoning laws are used to control and direct the development of property within city borders.

Zoning 101

Zoning was first introduced in the United States in the city of Los Angeles in 1908, though some others suggest the birth of zoning occurred in New York in 1916. Nonetheless, with urban planning theory and legal limitations evolving, new zoning codes have developed over the years. The various approaches to zoning can be broken into four general categories:

  • Euclidean: Named after the town of Euclid, Ohio, Euclidean is the most prevalent in the US although it has been highly criticised for its lack of flexibility. The main characteristic of Euclidean zoning is that land is divided into specified geographic districts and dimensional standards.
  • Performance: It sets review parameters for development projects. It also provides the flexibility and accountability that the Euclidean approach lacks. However, it has not been broadly adopted in the country.
  • Incentive: It is meant to provide a reward scale to encourage development in specific areas. It creates a considerable degree of flexibility but can be complicated to manage.
  • Form-based codes: Respond to the physical structure of a city in order to provide a more flexible environment.

What Do Zoning Laws Regulate?

Zoning laws may regulate specific terms and conditions related to the type of building allowed, limitations on accessory buildings, the location of utility lines, the size and stories of buildings, and the number of rooms a building can have.

Additional restrictions may include:

  • the frontage of a lot
  • front, rear, and side yard requirements
  • the number of buildings on a parcel
  • the minimum field area
  • off-street parking  
  • the number of dwelling units that are allowed within a particular area

Zoning regulations can also define what types of housing are required and if specific features of the property must be retained (due to its cultural or historical importance).


Many detractors believe that zoning laws are a restriction on a property owner’s property rights, striping them from their right to use their land. Together with potential property right infringements, zoning has also been condemned as a means to encourage social and economic segregation. These exclusionary zoning measures maintain high housing costs through various land-use regulations, such as maximum density requirements.

Another issue with excessively harsh zoning laws is that it may increase traveling distances, consequently intensifying pollution and congestion. For example, a dweller of a residential-only area would need a make long trips to get to a supermarket or to an office building.

It is vital for property owners, or those contemplating a commercial real estate transaction, to be familiar with the zoning laws impacting their property. Contact us today to discuss any questions you might have about zoning laws for your commercial project.