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 edition 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
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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 is owner of Wildfire Planning International, a consulting practice specialized in helping communities increase their resilience to wildfire. She has over fifteen years of experience working on environmental planning and wildland-urban interface issues. Current projects include managing the Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire program. Molly serves as a director for the non-profit Community Wildfire Planning Center and is a member of the Sustainable Development Code Advisory Council. She recently created the first national Land Use Planning for Wildfire course for FEMA. Molly holds a Master’s degree in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.