Residential Zoning And Their Restrictions

If you're in the market for a home where you can keep your pet duck, you need a special exception for your property, or if you are wondering if you can run your business at home, then you will need to know about residential zoning. Most areas have four main categories of zoning: residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural. Residential zoning has the strictest rules and industrial are the least restrictive. Cities vary on restrictions with residential zoning, but a few of the most common ones are listed below.

Type of residential zoning:

Residential zoning is divided with further restrictions depending on the area and land available. There are restrictions on size and density of each residential lot.  For example, a common residential designation is R-1 which means one house per property. R-4, for example, would mean that the property is restricted to no more than four residences. Some places have special residential districts called "rural-agricultural" or "rural-residential." These special zones often require a minimum size or acreage and often allow certain types of livestock. Zoning codes may vary from area to area.

Common types of restrictions:

Residential zoning disallows a wide range of activities. Most of these activities are usually not typical for a residential area. One of the most common is a restriction on the type of animals you can keep on your property. Household animals, such as dogs, cats, and caged birds are usually allowed. Chickens, pigs, bees, horses, and your pet duck may not be allowed depending on the zoning. Sometimes such animals are allowed if the lot is large enough or there is enough distance between homes. Other restrictions may include limits on home-based businesses, building heights, and external structures.


Since residential zoning is restrictive, it can be burdensome for some property owners. If you find that you are unable to use your property within the existing ordinance, you should file for a variance. Variances are exceptions that can help a landowner deal with unusual issues with the property. To get a variance, you must file paperwork with your zoning enforcement entity. Your neighbors will be able to give input on your request. Variance requests that will change the neighborhood atmosphere and cause a lot of extra noise, traffic, or parking issues are more likely to be denied.

Most areas use zoning laws to control land use and make it easier to solve problems between land owners. Residential zoning is the most restrictive of all zoning types. Though residential zoning is restrictive, exceptions can be made if you think the ordinance puts an unusual burden on your use of your property. Check with the code enforcement officer in your area or contact a land use attorney such as Timothy G. Mara for more details on the residential zoning laws in your area.