Roles and Responsibilities – Community Planning and Zoning (2023)

Understanding Boards of Adjustment in terms of Appeals, Interpretations,Variances,and Discretionary decisions.

The zoning board of adjustment

The zoning board of adjustment is known by different names, depending on your state: board of adjustment, board of zoning appeals, zoning board of appeals, board of adjustments and appeals or simply variance board. Likewise, the types and functions of boards of adjustment vary from state to state, depending on the authority granted to them by the state enabling legislation and interpretations of the enabling legislation by state courts.

In general, the board of adjustment is the body established to:

  • hear appeals of decisions rendered by zoning administrators
  • interpret unclear provisions in the zoning ordinance
  • decide on applications by landowners to permit buildings or land uses which vary from the zoning regulations.

In a number of states, the board of adjustment might also review applications that require the exercise of discretion, such as special exceptions.

Roles and Responsibilities – Community Planning and Zoning (1)

Administrative appeals

Zoning administrators are given the authority to make many decisions relating to the implementation of the zoning ordinance. If a landowner is dissatisfied with the zoning administrator’s decision, the landowner has a right to appeal the decision to the board of adjustment. It is the board of adjustment’s job to determine the appropriateness of the administrator’s decision, based on the purpose and intent of the regulations. As part of this process, it often becomes necessary for the board to interpret unclear provisions of the ordinance that have led to the difference of opinion between the administrator and the landowner over the application of the regulations.


Sometimes the zoning ordinance is not clear, and the zoning administrator, or some other party, wants clarification or has an issue with how the zoning ordinance is being interpreted. In these instances, the board of adjustment’s job is to determine the appropriate interpretation of that clause or part of the zoning ordinance.


Zoning regulations cannot be written to address every possible situation that comes about from the use of property. The zoning board of adjustment, therefore, is granted the authority to allow minor exceptions to the existing zoning rules to allow a landowner to do what would be otherwise generally forbidden by the ordinance. Variances are not supposed to be easy to obtain and require a showing of either “practical difficulties” or “unnecessary hardship,” depending on the type of variance being sought and the law particular to each state

Discretionary decisions: special exceptions (aka special uses or conditional uses).

In each zoning district two broad classes of land uses are explicitly identified: (1) permitted uses, which are those listed by the ordinance as being allowed by right in any location, and (2) special exceptions, which are listed by the ordinance as being permissible only at the discretion of one of the zoning administrative boards. In a number of states, that board may be the zoning board of adjustment. Special exceptions are generally uses that make them unique and slightly out of character with permitted uses. In order to be granted a special exception, the applicant must be able to show that the requested use can be made to fit into its surroundings.

Gary D. Taylor, Iowa State University

Photo by iaea_imagebank / CC BY


What responsibilities do a local planning and zoning commission have? ›

A planning and zoning commission is a local elected or appointed government board charged with recommending to the local town or city council the boundaries of the various original zoning districts and appropriate regulations to be enforced therein and any proposed amendments thereto.

What is zoning and why is it important to local areas? ›

Zoning is how the local government regulates and develops land within its control. It is broken down into multiple categories to help balance a city to ensure proper land use and provide value to citizens that own property.

What is the best example of zoning? ›

Zoning refers to municipal or local laws or regulations that govern how real property can and cannot be used in certain geographic areas. For example, zoning laws can limit commercial or industrial use of land to prevent oil, manufacturing, or other types of businesses from building in residential neighborhoods.

What is the purpose of zoning quizlet? ›

The purpose of zoning is to promote the health, welfare, and safety of the public. Building conformity is a result of building codes, not zoning.

What are two responsibilities of the Planning Commission? ›


First, it acts as an advisory board to the main governing body on all planning and development issues. Second, the commission assures that the general plan is implemented by reviewing development applications on a case-by-case basis.

What is the role of local planning? ›

Local planning authority of an area is usually the local authority of the area, such as city hall, the municipal council or the district council. It is responsible in regulating, controlling and determining the planning and development direction of its area.

What are the objectives of zoning? ›

The purpose of zoning is to indicate the land use objectives for all the lands within the County. Zoning aspires to promote the orderly development of the County by eliminating potential conflicts between incompatible land uses and to establish an efficient basis for investment in public infrastructure and facilities.

What are the principles of zoning? ›

The main principle of use zoning is to divide the city into different zones, in correct location with respect to the others. It avoids the encroachment of one zone upon another adjoining it. Utilization of each zone according to the purpose for which it is allocated.

Why is zoning important in business? ›

When a business owner begins the process of selecting a site for their enterprise, they must consider the zoning rules for their prospective locations. That is because zoning tells a property buyer what they can and cannot do on their land.

What is another word for zoning? ›

synonyms for zoning

On this page you'll find 9 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to zoning, such as: banding, bordering, bounding, circumscribing, delimiting, and girdling.

What is the most common type of zoning in the United States? ›

The most common type of zoning in California and throughout the United States is residential zoning, which restricts certain areas to homes and some small businesses.

What are three goals of zoning? ›

Zoning can protect and enhance property values. Zoning can help to implement the community goals and objectives of a comprehensive plan. Zoning can conserve existing neighborhoods. Zoning can preserve existing structures.

What is the continued use of a property that was lawful at the time the use began but now is in violation of a zoning regulation? ›

A nonconforming use is a use of property that was allowed under the zoning regulations at the time the use was established but which, because of subsequent changes in those regulations, is no longer a permitted use.

What is permission to build a structure which is actually prohibited by the zoning ordinance called? ›

Granting permission for building or maintaining a. structure or use which is actually prohibited by the zoning ordinance is called a variance.

What are planning steps? ›

The steps involved in the planning process are as follows:
  • Developing of objectives.
  • Developing tasks that are required to meet those objectives.
  • Determining resources needed to implement those tasks.
  • Creating a timeline.
  • Determining tracking and assessment method.
  • Finalising the plan.

What is the role of a Planning Commission quizlet? ›

The primary responsibility of planning commissioners is to advise elected officials on land-use issues.

What is short term planning? ›

What is short-term planning? Short-term planning is usually considered to take 12 months or less. Your daily, weekly, monthly, even quarterly and yearly goals – all can be filed under “short-term goals.” They are stepping stones that will help you to reach your big goal(s).

What are the four roles of planning? ›

These functions are planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. This P-O-L-C framework provides useful guidance into what the ideal job of a manager should look like.

What are the four basic requirements of local area planning? ›

1) Formulation of objectives or goals. 2) Fixing targets of planning and its priorities to be achieved. 3) Mobilisation of resources for the execution of plan. 4) Creating necessary social group or organization for the implementation of the plan.

What is the work and role of planners in local development? ›

Urban and regional planners develop land use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas.

What is the meaning of the word zoning? ›

: the act or process of partitioning a city, town, or borough into zones reserved for different purposes (such as residence or business) also : the set of ordinances by which such zones are established and regulated. voted to change the town's zoning. zoning laws.

What is zoning in storage? ›

In a storage area network a zone is a logical grouping of ports to form a virtual private storage network. Zones that belong to a single SAN can be grouped into a zone set, which can be activated or deactivated as a single entity across all switches in the fabric.

What does GA zoning mean? ›

General Agriculture (GA)

Under certain conditions as set forth hereinafter, an accessory structure may contain tools, currently tagged vehicles and/or equipment utilized in the trade or business occupation of the person or persons occupying the principal dwelling structure thereon.

What are the principles of town planning? ›

Some of the guiding principles of town planning are as follows.
  • Zoning. The town should be divided into suitable zones such as commercial zone, industrial zone, residential zone, etc. ...
  • Green Belt. ...
  • Public Buildings. ...
  • Recreation Centres. ...
  • Road Systems. ...
  • Transport Facilities. ...
  • Health. ...
  • Convenience.

Who makes local zoning laws? ›

Zoning laws are made by branches of local government, municipal corporation, or a county. When an area is deemed a zoning district, there will be specific regulations on how a property owner can use the land within a zone.

What is the meaning of town planner? ›

A town planner helps communities, companies and politicians to decide on the best way to use land and buildings. A planner's main aim is achieving sustainability. This means balancing different social, environmental and economic issues when official decisions are made on whether a piece of land is built on or not.

What are the benefits of zoning in storage? ›

Zoning promotes efficient management, fabric stability and security. Smaller SAN environments can function without zoning, but this approach enables all devices to interact, which can affect performance even with smaller SANs.

What is LCA12 zoning? ›

ZONING is LCA12. LC means Los Angeles County, The "2" means 2 acre mimimun lot size.

What is LCA22 zoning? ›

The LCA22 zoning allows a house and you may look into development for gorgeous views for custom homes. KEY FEATURES: Property Type: Agriculture, Recreational, Residential, Ranching, Development.

How would you describe zoning out? ›

: not thinking clearly or paying attention to what is happening around you because you are tired, drugged, etc. I was totally zoned out and didn't hear what she said.

What is a zone in a building? ›

Zones are the individual spaces in any home, office or building, each with it's own heating and cooling source. Determining how your spaces should be divided for cooling and heating allows you to better control the temperature in each area or “zone”.

What is the word for dividing land? ›

"Subdivision" means the division of a lot, tract, or parcel of land into two or more lots, plats, sites, or other divisions of land for the purpose, whether immediate or future, of sale or of building development.

What are the four types of zone? ›

The main zones are: arctic, temperate, subtropical and tropical. There will of course be large local variations at times, so the strict geographic division is more of a guideline than a fixed rule.

What are the 4 different zones? ›

Anthropologist Edward Hall coined this word in the early 1960s and classified 4 major proxemic zones: the intimate space, personal space, social space, and public space.

What are the three zones? ›

The Frigid Zone, Temperate Zone, and Torrid Zone are the three heat zones on the planet. The Torrid Zone is just the hottest of the different zones since it is closest to the equator.

Which level of government controls zoning laws? ›

State and local governments use zoning laws and ordinances to regulate the uses of land within their borders.

What states have the best zoning laws? ›

Southern states make up some of the least-restrictively regulated states. These states include Oklahoma, Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Overall, southern states occupy 8 of the 10 least-restrictive spots for land-use regulation and 7 of the 10 least-restrictive spots for zoning.

Who is considered the father of zoning? ›

Edward Murray Bassett (February 7, 1863 – October 27, 1948), "the father of American zoning", and one of the founding fathers of modern-day urban planning, wrote the first comprehensive zoning ordinance in the United States, which was adopted by New York City in 1916.

What is the main purpose of a local planning and zoning department? ›

A planning and zoning commission is a local elected or appointed government board charged with recommending to the local town or city council the boundaries of the various original zoning districts and appropriate regulations to be enforced therein and any proposed amendments thereto.

What is zoning plans? ›

A zoning plan is a detailed map that designates restrictions placed on the use of each piece of property under a government's jurisdiction. Zoning restrictions can limit the type and amount of development which may take place on a land parcel.

What is a purpose of a general plan? ›

The purpose of a general plan is to guide land use planning decisions. Under state law, subdivisions, capital improvements, development agreements, and many other land use actions must be consistent with the adopted general plan.

What document usually guides most local zoning? ›

The zoning regulation is usually developed in the form of a zoning ordinance, which is the text specifying land use of specific blocks and even each individual lot within a city block.

What are limitations or requirements about the use of property called? ›

A deed restriction is a legal agreement between two or more parties that limits the use of real property. There are different types of deed restrictions but the most common is known as a restrictive covenant.

What is a local law that restricts the use of land or real estate? ›

The most common form of land-use regulation is zoning. Zoning regulations and restrictions are used by municipalities to control and direct the development of property within their borders.

What are zoning laws and local ordinances? ›

A zoning ordinance is a rule that defines how property in specific geographic zones can be used. Zoning ordinances detail whether specific geographic zones are acceptable for residential or commercial purposes.

What type of land use doesn t comply with the zoning restriction for where it is located but is permitted because it benefits the public? ›

C Explanation: A property use that does not conform to current zoning requirements, but is allowed because the property was being used in that way before the present zoning ordinance was enacted, is called a nonconforming use. A nonconforming use may also be referred to as a pre- existing or legal nonconforming use.

Does zoning refers to municipal or local laws or regulations that govern how real property can and cannot be used in certain geographic? ›

Zoning is a set of municipal laws or regulations that govern how property can and cannot be used in specific geographic locations. Zoning has been used both as a tool to build cities and as an exclusionary practice to keep neighborhoods, towns, and cities racially and economically divided.

Which of the following would be a responsibility of the Planning Commission? ›

Explanation: The planning commission is responsible for designing and adopting a comprehensive, long-term plan for all development within the city or county.

Are local governments responsible for planning and zoning? ›

Local governments can initiate a community's economic planning efforts, to build on their official community plan and role of shaping community growth and determining land use. Local government functions that influence economic development and planning include: Planning and zoning bylaws. Taxation.

What do local zoning ordinances regulate? ›

Zoning refers to a set of regulations that restrict how a property can and cannot be used. It can also mean regulating the size, shape and scale of the buildings on a certain property within a specific geographic area.

What are the areas of responsibility authority for which the local planning commissions are commonly delegated final authority for? ›

There are three areas of responsibility for which city planning commissions are commonly delegated final authority: (1) subdivision plat approval, (2) site plan approval, and (3) sign control.

What is a planning commissions primary purpose? ›

A Planning Commission is a body of citizens that serve within local government, acting as an advisory group to the municipal governing body on issues and policies related to planning, land use regulation, and community development.

Who is responsible for planning in the department? ›

The CEO and executive team play a big role in setting the foundation of a strategic plan by creating guiding organizational principles, articulating the strategic areas of focus, and creating the long-term goals that guide the organization to create aligned goals and actions to achieve its vision of success.

What is a Planning Commission and why do they exist? ›

The planning commission is a citizen volunteer agency that objectively reviews and recommends sound and efficient planning regulations to the legislative body of the community. The Planning Commission is the primary entity responsible for long term, comprehensive planning.

Who controls local zoning? ›

The legislative body of each city (the city council) and each county (the board of supervisors) adopts zoning, subdivision and other ordinances to regulate land uses and to carry out the policies of its general plan.

Who is in charge of local zoning? ›

Zoning laws are almost always enacted and enforced by local, and not statewide or nationwide, authorities. City governments, town governments, village governments and the like are merely functions of the state government. They derive all of their authority from the states in which they reside.

What are the 5 functions of the local government in the community? ›

(1) The objects of local government are— (a) to provide democratic and accountable government for local communities; (b) to ensure the provision of services to communities in a sustainable manner; (c) to promote social and economic development; (d) to promote a safe and healthy environment; and (e) to encourage the ...

What are the three most common zoning designations? ›

Types of Zoning
  • R for residential buildings.
  • C for commercial.
  • I for industrial.
Apr 20, 2020

What is authority and responsibility which can be delegated? ›

According to the principle of absolute responsibility, authority can be delegated but responsibility and accountability cannot be delegated by a manager. The manager is responsible or accountable to his own superior for both, the tasks that he has assigned his subordinates and the acts of his subordinates.

Which one can be delegated authority or responsibility? ›

You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility.

How organizations assign responsibility for tasks and delegate authority? ›

Delegation of authority is the process of transferring responsibility for a task to another employee. As a manager, you can typically transfer responsibility to any of your direct team members. That employee may then decide to delegate some of those responsibilities among their team members if necessary.

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