What Is a Zoning Map?

A zoning map shows the acceptable uses for property in a city or other area. Zoning information on these maps usually tells which areas are zoned for residential and/or commercial use.

What Is a Zoning Map?

These are an important part of urban planning. Cities, municipalities, and other types of government divide the property up into land-use zones. A city using this type of ordinance can have several zoning districts like commercial, residential, agricultural, and industrial.

Zoning maps need to show clear boundaries. Read on to find out more about this subject. And remember that Google Translate can help you with the right language. There are 108 different ones to choose from with the Google Translate app.

Who Uses a Zoning Map?

Zoning information that you can find in these maps is used by municipalities. This is how they set their general policies for land use and how these rules serve the way a city or other area gets developed and divided up.

A business looking to set up a shop might need to look at a map and check out the zoning regulations. They might need to apply for rezoning. Even homeowners should check zoning maps before they renovate. There are zoning bylaws that can affect your property in a city.

zoning map

Why Do You Need a Zoning Map?

These show the different land-use zones, districts, and/or overlays. One of the big reasons these maps are created is to show the regulations for development in each of the zones.

It’s possible to get a minor variance if your proposed changes don’t conform to zoning bylaws. The right map can tell you more about land use and the current zoning. It can be the first stage in planning a new business build or custom house.

What Does a Zoning Map Tell You?

Remember there’s no federal agency that controls zoning. You might own your own property but you still need to abide by the planning laws for your city.

One of these maps can tell residents how building land can be used, and where they can be located. A reference map can also dictate the height and size of buildings and other structures. Parking requirements, landscape requirements as well as lot dimensions and sizes can be included in the reference material.

Land UseSpecifies how land can be utilized (e.g., residential, commercial, industrial).
Building LocationDefines where buildings can be placed within a lot or parcel.
Building HeightDictates the maximum allowable height of structures.
Building SizeProvides the maximum size or footprint of buildings.
Parking RequirementsOutlines the number of parking spots needed for a building or lot.
Landscape RequirementsSpecifies required green spaces, trees, and other landscaping elements.
Lot DimensionsDetails the minimum and maximum allowable lot sizes.
Lot SizesIndicates the size of plots, which can determine the type and size of development.

Where Can You Find Zoning Maps?

If you want to navigate through the land use for a property you’ll need to find the right zoning. Looking for zoning in a bigger city? Be aware the process began with the ordinances started in Los Angeles in 1904.

If you’re looking for a place on the web, MapLink is an interactive online map. This planning tool has a menu to follow. It’s a good tool if you want to know where you can open a business. Or if you’re wondering what you can do in a city with your property. You might need translation services if you’re looking offshore.

The National Zoning Atlas is another resource on the web. There are a variety of links on the menu and different landing pages. The site is all about digitizing the 30,000 US zoning codes and supplying links on the Internet. Don’t forget the Google translate app works with images. It’s been developed so users can translate the text. Translations can be helpful if you’re looking at zoning in unfamiliar areas.

Common Zoning Categories

Good planning for businesses includes understanding how to use the property they own in a city. Finding a zoning map on a good site is the beginning. But entrepreneurs and map users should also know about the common categories for each city.

Residential Zoning

zoning map

This is commonly found on different city maps. Residential zones can include condominiums, co-ops, duplexes, apartments, and even trailer parks. The major designation is single-family residences.

Commercial Zoning

zoning map

This has several categories. In a city, this zoning can serve shopping centers, nightclubs, and hotels as well as office buildings and shopping centers. Even a vacant apartment building that has the potential for development can be considered commercial.

Agricultural Zoning

zoning map

This type of zoning covers a city or other area that intends to protect farmland. Part of the planning involved is designed to limit suburban sprawl. The type of structures that can be built is limited.

Industrial Zoning

zoning map

Industrial zoning can include noise concerns and environmental factors to determine how the planning for the area unfolds. Factors like building heights and floor area ratios are important to map users.

What Does Zoning in Retail Mean?

zoning map

Zoning ordinances include retail properties. In fact, the term retail property is an ordinance itself. It describes a property that is used as a retail enterprise or space. Companies can operate businesses and sell goods and services in zones that are retail locations.

Zoning Maps for Small Businesses: A Practical Guide

When planning to start or relocate a small business, understanding zoning maps is crucial. These maps dictate what activities can take place in specific areas, directly impacting where your business can operate. Here’s how small businesses can navigate zoning maps effectively:

  • Identify Suitable Zones: Begin by identifying the zoning classifications that permit your type of business. Commercial, industrial, and mixed-use zones are common designations where small businesses are allowed. However, specific restrictions within these categories can vary significantly.
  • Utilize Online Resources: Many municipalities offer online zoning maps and databases. Utilize these digital tools to search for properties by address and view their zoning classification. This initial step can save time and resources before investing in a particular location.
  • Understand Permitted Uses: Once you’ve identified potential zones, delve into the specifics of what is allowed within those zones. For instance, a commercial zone might permit retail but not manufacturing. Understanding these nuances is key to ensuring your business operates legally.
  • Consider Future Growth: When examining zoning maps, think about your business’s future growth. Ensure the zone you’re considering not only fits your current needs but also offers flexibility for expansion, whether through additional commercial activities or physical space.
  • Look for Special Provisions: Some zones have special provisions or overlays that could benefit your business, such as incentives for small businesses, reduced taxes, or grants for beautifying commercial spaces. These can provide a competitive edge and financial benefits.
  • Engage with Planning Departments: If you’re unsure about the zoning requirements or potential restrictions, contact your local planning department. They can provide clarity on zoning laws, potential rezoning processes, or variances that might apply to your business.
  • Prepare for Rezoning or Variance Requests: In some cases, the ideal location for your business may not be zoned appropriately. Be prepared to petition for rezoning or a variance. This process can be lengthy and may require community engagement, so factor this into your planning.
  • Quick Reference Guide:
    • Check zoning maps early in your location selection process.
    • Use digital tools for easy access to zoning information.
    • Understand the specific permitted uses within your desired zone.
    • Plan for both current needs and future growth.
    • Investigate special provisions that could benefit your business.
    • Engage with local planning departments for guidance.
    • Be prepared to navigate rezoning or variance processes if necessary.

Navigating zoning maps can initially seem daunting for small business owners. However, with careful research and planning, these maps can be a valuable resource in selecting the perfect location for your business, ensuring compliance with local regulations, and planning for long-term success.

Do You Need a Zoning Permit for a Home-based Business?

Residents who want to start a home-based business should check with the city where they live. Planning a successful home-based business depends on the type. Local zoning laws might prohibit things like fixing cars out of a home garage.

If you’re planning on putting a sign outside your property, you’ll need to check the local ordinances. Make sure to check with your city. Some have rules for environmental safety and delivery standards.

Can You Open a Business in an Industrial Zone?

Yes, you can. However industrial zoning is quite often used for packaging and manufacturing type businesses. Industrial-zoned areas in any city usually have storage facilities and even airports. Start the process by looking on the web for a map.

Here are five considerations for opening a business in an industrial zone:

  • Type of Business: Ensure your business type aligns with the primary activities allowed in industrial zones, such as manufacturing, warehousing, or assembly.
  • Environmental Concerns: Industrial zones may have regulations or restrictions related to waste disposal, emissions, and pollutants. Make sure your business activities comply.
  • Accessibility: Consider the ease of transportation for your goods, proximity to suppliers, and accessibility for any potential employees or visitors.
  • Noise and Operation Hours: Industrial zones might have more lenient rules regarding noise and operating hours, allowing businesses to run machinery or processes that are louder without disturbing nearby residences.
  • Safety Regulations: Due to the nature of activities in industrial zones, there might be strict safety and health regulations. Ensure that your business meets all standards to avoid potential liabilities.

How Do You Locate a Zoning Map by Address?

Navigate the web to your city and look for interactive zoning research tools. You should be able to click on a zoning area from there. You can find a local map on the google platform and even get a translation if necessary.

A quick search will provide links to several different choices. Look for an interactive map where you can add an address to start your planning. Here’s a link to a National Zoning Atlas that can start you in the right direction. You could need some translation options. Use Google.

How Do You Find Your Local Zoning Regulations?

The first step is to locate your property either on city zoning maps or by going to your local municipality. Finding links to an interactive map on the city site is fast.

Once you find a zoning area you can click on the links that can take you to a specific bylaw section. You might need to contact the city planning department if your property isn’t listed.


Image: Envato Elements

Rob Starr Rob Starr is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 7 years. He is a graduate of Ryerson University in Toronto with a Bachelor of Journalism degree. His print credentials include employment with various Toronto area newspapers and three works of fiction: The Apple Lady (2004), Creekwater (2006) and Sophistry By Degrees (2008) published by Stonegarden Press In California.