Zoning permit – Importance, Purpose and Types

Zoning permit explanation

Needing yet another permit for your building project may be frustrating. But having a zoning permit is very important. Before we explain what a zoning permit is, let’s quickly analyze what zoning is.

Zoning is a process of separating the land into zones for different purposes. Zoning laws are in place to determine what type of structure is allowed to be built on the land. Zoning codes regulate not only the type of structure, but also their use.

3 Key Takeaways

  1. Zoning permit is a legal document that gives you the right to build and make changes on your lot in accordance with the land use regulations.
  2. Zoning provides stability to the property value.
  3. There are 3 main types of zoning.

What is a zoning permit?

Zoning permit definition
Definition of a zoning permit

Zoning permit is a legal document that gives you the right to build a new structure or make changes to the existing one in accordance with the specific land use.

Changes don’t have to be physical, you may just want to turn your residential house into an office space, you will need a zoning permit for that.

As you can imagine, these types of codes and regulations are very important.

Importance of zoning

Why is zoning important?
Importance of zoning rules and regulations

The importance of zoning is great. Just imagine, you bought your dream house, started to live there and your next-door neighbors decided to turn their home into a nightclub. Zoning codes are in place to ensure that something like that never happens.

As you can see in the chart below (Source: Census Bureau and HUD) and as you are already aware, housing prices in the US are only going up. Zoning regulations are here to ensure that your house value isn’t negatively affected by someone else in your neighborhood.

Median price of houses in the US - chart
Annual median sales price of houses

What is the purpose of zoning?

Zoning laws are there to ensure common good and general well-being of the entire community. What an individual or a company does with their land should, in no way, negatively affect their neighborhood.

The main purpose of zoning is to provide stability to property values. Also, to segregate different zones by their use of the land and the structures on it.

For example, zoning laws will ensure that industrial zones are a safe distance from residential zones. This brings us to different types of zoning.

Types of zoning

Zoning types
Main types of zoning

The importance of different types of zoning is knowing the intended purpose of the property. Before purchasing one, you should know how the property is zoned. Every community has different set of zoning laws and regulations, but 3 main types of zoning are:

  1. Residential
  2. Industrial
  3. Commercial


Residential zoning includes single-family homes, houses, apartments, condos, duplexes and multi-family homes.

This is important if you want to have a mobile home on your lot. Also, how many structures you are allowed to have on your lot.

Residential zoning in some places regulate the number of farm animals that you are allowed to have. Number of pets is usually not regulated.

If you are planning to have your business in your residence, there is a chance that is not allowed in your area. Home-based businesses may be under the residential zoning regulations. In some areas, there is a limitation on business hours. There is also a possibility that you will have to have separate entrance and parking for your business.


Industrial zoning includes structures that manufacture, store or distribute products, or are involved in production or refining of energy or fuel.

Industrial zoning regulates the use of land where different industrial structures are located, like factories and power plants.


Commercial zoning includes hotels, motels, shopping malls, office buildings, retail stores, restaurants and entertainment venues.

Although both industrial and commercial zoning include non-residential structures, there are differences. Commercial zoning regulates areas where there is certain interaction with the public.

Because of that interaction, commercial zoning laws are more strict in regards to noise control, parking, location of structures and lot size.

Zoning permit vs building permit

The main difference between these two permits is that zoning codes are there to ensure that the structure fits the correct land use, and building codes are there to ensure the safety of residents.

In many cases both permits are necessary, and sometimes you will also need a HOA approval. In most cities the Building Department will first check the compliance with zoning codes, and then issue a building permit. So, let’s see how the process of applying for a zoning permit looks like.

Zoning permit application – steps, process and documents

Process of applying for zoning permit
Zoning permit application process

Although the application process may vary from city to city, in general obtaining a zoning permit includes these 5 steps:

  1. Reviewing the Existing Zoning Laws – Understanding the zoning laws in your area might be crucial for your project. Those laws will help you understand if your project is possible. There is plenty of information on local zoning codes online.
  2. Gather All Documents – Each city has different rules regarding the necessary documents for a zoning permit. But usually you will need a site plan, where you will need to show the proposed work, elevation plan, if you live in a flood zone, permission of the owner, if the land isn’t yours.
  3. Fill Out the Application Form – Most cities have these forms available online, filling one out won’t take you more than 30 minutes.
  4. Submit the Application – Follow the instructions given to you by your local authority and make sure to submit all supporting documents. Also, make sure that you are submitting the correct number of copies.
  5. Pay the Fee – Zoning permit fees vary from city to city. In most cases, the cost of a zoning permit will be determined by the value of your project. The more your project costs, the higher the zoning permit fee.

In most cases, you will be able to complete this process online.

Zoning site plan

For over 20 years we have been creating site plans for permits. Our expertise is reflected in nearly 4,000 approved site plans for permits. Make the process of obtaining a zoning permit quick and easy, order a site plan and we will deliver it to you in 24 hours. Find out more about us or contact us if you have any additional questions.

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