Codifying Zoning's Little Helpers

Zoning Practice — December 2015

By David Morley, AICP, Nicholas Walny


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Early zoning ordinances were straightforward and concise — just a simple list of permitted uses, setbacks, and height limits for each zoning district and an accompanying zoning map. It didn't take long, though, for those zoning codes to start bulking up. The physical growth of local zoning codes wasn't exactly surprising. As all planners know, local regulations have a tendency to expand over time, and it's not uncommon for a small city to be governed by hundreds (if not thousands) of individual ordinances adopted over a period of many decades.

Consequently, though, the codification of local regulations can be a daunting process for staff and local officials. The location of a specific set of provisions within the local code of ordinances affects both the efficiency of code administration and the legibility of the code to residents, business owners, and other community stakeholders.

This issue of Zoning Practice looks at the intersections between zoning and other specialized local regulations that affect the use of land. It discusses several types of non-zoning provisions that occasionally get incorporated into local zoning codes and proposes a framework for making codification decisions about land-use related ordinances.


Page Count
Date Published
Dec. 1, 2015
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American Planning Association

About the Authors

David Morley, AICP
David Morley, AICP, is a Research Program and QA Manager at the American Planning Association in Chicago, where he manages and contributes to sponsored research projects; manages the development of the Research KnowledgeBase; develops, organizes, and participates in educational sessions and workshops; and writes for APA publications. Mr. Morley also edits Zoning Practice.

Nicholas Walny