Classifying and Defining Uses and Building Forms

Zoning Practice — September 2005

By Mark White, AICP


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Defining and classifying uses is the heart of conventional zoning systems. In zoning law, the term "use" refers to the purpose for which a parcel or building is utilized. Land-use classification systems are a systematic organization of land uses for purposes of planning or plan implementation.

Conventional, or "Euclidean," zoning assigns land uses to districts that are established in the ordinance. Precise definitions and distinctions between uses are needed not only to allocate uses to the appropriate districts, but also to determine how the uses are classified and the regulations that apply to them. Form-based zoning also typically include restrictions on uses along with building forms.

This issue of Zoning Practice introduces the concept of a land-use classification system and explores different approaches to defining and categorizing uses and building forms in zoning codes.


Page Count
Date Published
Sept. 1, 2005
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American Planning Association

About the Author

Mark White, AICP
Mark White is an attorney and urban planner whose practice emphasizes zoning and code drafting. He has completed over 150 development code updates, zoning regulations, and comprehensive plan/smart growth implementation projects for local governments in over 36 states. He has extensive experience in dealing with sign regulations and is a frequent presenter on the subject. He is a member of the North Carolina and Missouri Bars, AICP, and the American Planning Association. Mr. White has a JD and Master of Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.