Zoning and Land-Use Tools in the Wildland-Urban Interface

Zoning Practice — September 2018

By Anna Read, AICP, Molly Mowery, AICP


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From wine country in California to suburban homes in Colorado to small towns in Tennessee, large wildfires threatening homes and communities are in the headlines more often than ever. As development increasingly spreads into areas that border or commingle with forests, grasslands, and other open spaces — an area known as the wildland-urban interface, or WUI — more communities are taking steps to proactively address the risks associated with wildfire.

This issue of Zoning Practice discusses how key characteristics of development in the WUI influence wildfire risk, and it highlights a range of land-use and development regulations that affect the extent, design, and ultimate safety of WUI development. These regulatory tools include zoning overlays, transfer of development rights, WUI codes, subdivision controls, defensible space regulations, landscaping standards, use-specific standards, and code enforcement.


Page Count
Date Published
Sept. 1, 2018
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Anna Read, AICP
Anna Read is a co-author of the forthcoming PAS report, “Planning the Wildland-Urban Interface.' She previously worked as a Senior Program Development and Research Associate in the American Planning Association’s Washington, D.C. office, where she conducted applied research within APA's National Centers for Planning. Prior to joining APA, she worked on regional broadband planning efforts for the state of Missouri and as a project manager for the International City/County Management Association's Center for Sustainable Communities.  She has a Master's degree in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University. 

Molly Mowery, AICP
Molly Mowery, AICP serves as the Executive Director of the Community Wildfire Planning Center and is also the founder of Wildfire Planning International. Throughout her career Ms. Mowery has successfully launched and managed national wildfire programs, designed national trainings to educate land use planners and fire professionals, and coauthored numerous publications on the wildland-urban interface (WUI). She is currently working with California state fire agencies to support the update of fire safe regulations and develop wildfire planning trainings. She also led the research and development of the Governor's Office of Planning and Research WUI Planning Best Practices Guide. Ms. Mowery holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Naropa University and a Master in City Planning degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the chair-elect of APA's Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Recovery division.