Zoning Practice — December 2011

Ask the Author

Here are reader questions answered by Arista Strungys, AICP, author of the December 2011 Zoning Practice article "Mapping Principles for Rezonings."

Question from Martin Sokolich, Talbot County, Maryland:

Is there a 21st century convention for an Official Zoning Map? Can a digital file be the official map, or must it be a signed document? How much detail should be visible on the official map? Is it sufficient to refer to the map in an ordinance adopting the map, rather than signing off on a map itself?

Answer from author Arista Strungys, AICP:

Most zoning maps are becoming digital zoning maps. Unless state enabling legislation says otherwise, a digital file can serve as the Official Zoning Map. It is just important to designate and maintain one map — whether a digital file or hardcopy — as the "official" map, where all map amendments will first be recorded and that the public can rely on as containing accurate zoning district designations for properties in the municipality. Though, if the map is digital, it is recommended for record-keeping and reference purposes that an up-to-date hardcopy print out of the zoning map be maintained as well.

As to how much detail should be incorporated into the map, those details are determined by how district boundary lines are drawn. Based on how the zoning ordinance text reads for zoning map boundaries, it is typical that streets, lot lines, rail lines and waterways are shown.

Finally, when adopting a map, it is likely sufficient to refer to the map in an ordinance adopting the map, though this should be verified with the municipal attorney and compliant with state enabling legislation. In any case, a copy of the zoning map should be appended to the adopting ordinance for reference.

Question from Joel Plaskon, AICP, Lewiston, Idaho:

Should zoning district boundary lines take in street and other rights of way? Why or why not?

Answer from author Arista Strungys, AICP:

When the property line of a parcel abuts a public right-of-way, zoning mapping convention is to draw district boundary lines from the centerline of the streets or other rights-of-way, even though the public right-of-way itself is not zoned. This ensures that the entire lot is zoned the appropriate district. You will find that most ordinances delineate these rules for zoning district boundaries within that part of the text that describes the zoning map.