Zoning is when the local government – usually a municipality, town or township – sets rules and regulations for the way any given area can be used.
No matter what plans you might have for property, you can only use it in ways that comply with zoning rules. For example, if you buy a home in a neighborhood and wish to raise pot belly pigs, it is likely that you will have to request an exception, or special use permit. The request would have to be approved by the governing body who set the zone, and most likely, your neighbors.
In order to raise livestock or wild animals without going through the extra channels, you would need to buy property in an area that has been designated as an agricultural zone.
There are classifications within zoning classifications. For example, an area may be zoned as residential, but allow only single family homes. Another may be zoned residential but allow for townhouses and apartments as well.
There are a number of reasons a government body zones property. Zoning is one way to control how particular land is used, allowing the government to ensure that communities are functional and safe. It wouldn’t make sense to allow a strip club or liquor store to be built next to an elementary school, or a carpet store to be built in a residential neighborhood.
Zoning helps lay a town out in a way that makes the most functional sense while preserving its aesthetics. While an argument could be made that many cities are not logical, zoning attempts to right that problem by grouping residences, commercial properties and agricultural land with other property of its own kind.
Zoning may include restrictions such as the use of green space, the number of structures allowed in a particular area, the type of businesses allowed, and the height of buildings.
Before making any property-related decisions, check with your local zoning office.