Zoning as a Land Planning Tool


Zoning is a planning control tool used by the municipality and other city governments to divide lands into segments in which the statutory authority permits the use of certain lands. The use of this tool is significant as it allows the authority to control and ensure complementary use of lands. Zoning is said to be a major cause of increased carbon emissions and urban sprawl. Implementing changes in zoning leads to an increased cost of house occupation. Therefore, although zoning is criticized, it is essential in controlling the proper use of land.

The Essence and Purpose of Zoning

Zoning serves the purpose of controlling the use of property markets and land by the local and national authorities. Zoning is often done by the municipality authority or the county government depending on the ruling judicial settings (Lehavi, 2017). Zoning is also used to stimulate or stall the development of a certain area. Zoning laws also help to ensure that the society is developed most effectively and conveniently and that areas reserved for specific use are located nearby. Specifically, zoning allows the division of the community into districts while imposing different land-use controls for each district.

Zoning also specifies the use of buildings and lands especially publicly owned buildings in the area. A significant advantage of zoning is that it prevents the mixing of incompatible land use (Lehavi, 2017). For example, zoning prevents the building of exotic dance clubs near schools due to incompatibility. Other benefits of zoning include protection of open space and recreational areas, preventing nuisance use of land near residential areas, and providing better lot arrangement, among others.

Criticism of Zoning Regulations

Zoning receives sustained and vigorous criticism from many experts based on the regulatory system. Zoning regulations interfere with the rights of private development whereby the developers’ rights are not observed (Lehavi, 2017). The municipality dictates what land can be developed and what structure should or should not be built on specific land, whether private or public. Private developers feel that they have the right to decide what to make of their lands without government interference (Lehavi, 2017). Progressive housing advocates began criticizing zoning for turning flourishing cities unaffordable and aggravating racial segregation. The critics are that the zoning regulations contribute to the cost of housing particularly due to the increased requirements of the regulation. Furthermore, the advocates feel that the zoning officials encourage the location of a certain race in one area while preventing another race.

Environmentalists blame zoning for increased carbon emissions and urban sprawl. Zoning allows the location of many industrial companies in one area, hence increasing the level of carbon released (Lehavi, 2017). Urbanization of one area also contributes to an increase in carbon emissions. Urban sprawling whereby buildings are spread over a large area in an untidy way makes towns look disorganized (Lehavi, 2017). Critics from economists are that zoning restricts the mobility of residents hence limiting the easy flow of market labor, which reduced the assemblage surplus that thriving cities ought to be producing.

Consequences of Changes in Zoning Rules

Changed zoning rules negatively affect the economy through labor markets to stall growth and maximize inequality. New regulations require land developers to pay the increased cost before building in their lands (Lehavi, 2017). Consequently, housing prices go higher hence making new or less-skilled workers least productive in the markets. Zoning increases the price of building new structures by charging more for construction permits. This reduces the potential growth of an area, which would have been without increased taxes.

Zoning sometimes requires property owners to give up some of their private properties for the community’s good. For example, the municipality may require a landowner to give up their land for building a public school. Zoning can prevent the development of an area basing its reasoning on historic norms against mixed-use of locations (Lehavi, 2017). Changes in zoning regulations also cause increased greenhouse gas emissions. Highly concentrated cities are prone to more gas emissions which leads to global warming. Effects of climate change are felt at a personal and economical level. Furthermore, such changes can lead to the disorganized development of structures in a developing area.


Case study 1

Mascioli et al. v. Islip 49 N.Y.2d 354 (1980)

The involved parties were Joseph Mascioli et al., as the plaintiff-appellee and Town of Islip, as the defendants-appellants. Mascioli et al. sued the town of Islip for a condemnation of their land. After the court trial, the town awarded the claimants an increment above the land value. Mascioli et al. appealed the judgment of the Supreme Court. In 1973, the claimant applied to the town for rezoning of his land from residential AA to Business 1. The town denied the application and acquired the property through condemnation. The town said that the land was not suitable for residential use and that the owner should be compensated with limitations to residential value. The town should compensate the claimant with an increment on top of the land value. The claimant said that the increment should be more should rezoning be done to turn the land to a business value. The issue was if the compensation increment could go high should a residential property be rezoned to a business property?

The ruling affirmed that the compensation increment of residential property could go higher should the land be rezoned to the value of the business property. However, there should be adequate reasons for the rezoning of the land. The United States rule of law states that a property can only be rezoned if its current zoning prevents it from being of maximum use. The town of Islip provided recommendations of how it would use the land while still under residential zoning. Here, Mascioli et al. demanded to rezone the land and change the property value, which, in return, would mean an increment in the value paid in the earlier judgment. Therefore, considering that the court already has approved the use of the land without changing its zoning, there was no need for rezoning and no reason for a higher increment. The conclusion was that order of the Appellate Division was affirmed and dismissal of claimant’s cross-appeal implemented.

Case Study 2

Penn Central Transportation Co. et al. V. New York City et al. 438 U.S. 104 (1978)

The case parties were Penn Central Transportation Co. et al., as the plaintiff‐appellee and New York City et al., as defendants‐appellants. Penn Central an associate of UGP together applied for permission to construct an office building on top of a landmark, terminal that was not approved by the commission. The claimants wanted permission to build a 55 story building and tear off portions of the terminal. They applied for the certificate of appropriateness and a certificate of no exterior effect which were both denied. The plaintiff-appellee appealed that NYC had taken their private property without just compensation. The issue was if under the New York City‘s Landmarks Preservation Law, the city took the Grand Central Terminal from the claimant, Penn Central. The ruling declined claiming that when the city declared the terminal a landmark, it [terminal] automatically became the public property of New York City despite being in Penn Central’s property.

Over 50 years ago, all US states enacted laws to protect landmarks or encourage the preservation of such historic property. The law then prohibited the destruction or alteration of landmark features without the permission of the local municipality. Should the property owner in which the landmark lies decide to interfere with it in any way, he or she must apply for a certificate of appropriateness and certificate of no exterior effect. The two certificates ensure that the landowner will not alter the main features of the landmarks or cause any effect that prevents it from lawful protection. Therefore, after sending the application to alter portions of the terminal, the judicial review decided to deny Penn Central permission because the intentions would interfere with the lawful protection of the landmark. Furthermore, the city did not take Penn Central’s property without just compensation. The conclusion was that New York City order was affirmed with the dismissal of Penn central’s claim that the city had taken its property.


Zoning is an essential land planning tool for the proper use of land yet it has tough effects upon regulation changes. Zoning can cause reduced market labor, increased housing prices, urban sprawling, and increased carbon emissions. Zoning regulation changes cause negative effects on the economy and individuals. The application of some zoning laws indicates the rough judgment of the law against private property in different cases. Zoning is viewed differently by major criticism but barely provides workable suggestions.


Lehavi, A. (Ed.) ( 2017). One hundred years of zoning and the future of cities. Springer.

Mascioli et al. v. Islip, 49 N.Y.2d 354 (1980).

Penn Central Transportaion Co.et al. V. New York City et al. 438 U.S. 104 (1978).

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LawBirdie. (2023, March 23). Zoning as a Land Planning Tool. Retrieved from https://lawbirdie.com/zoning-as-a-land-planning-tool/


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Work Cited

"Zoning as a Land Planning Tool." LawBirdie, 23 Mar. 2023, lawbirdie.com/zoning-as-a-land-planning-tool/.


LawBirdie. (2023) 'Zoning as a Land Planning Tool'. 23 March.


LawBirdie. 2023. "Zoning as a Land Planning Tool." March 23, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/zoning-as-a-land-planning-tool/.

1. LawBirdie. "Zoning as a Land Planning Tool." March 23, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/zoning-as-a-land-planning-tool/.


LawBirdie. "Zoning as a Land Planning Tool." March 23, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/zoning-as-a-land-planning-tool/.