How to Research Local Zoning Laws

Written by ehow business editor
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Local zoning laws, also called ordinances, establish what activities can be carried out in a municipality. Areas within a municipality are zoned for industrial, commercial, and residential development. Within each zoning type, individual parcels are subdivided into classes. Before starting a home-based business or planning construction, you should find out how your property is zoned and what your local zoning laws are. Zoning laws can also restrict what kind of improvements can be made to a home. Read on to learn how to research local zoning laws.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Check the websites of your municipality and county. Many municipalities publish zoning ordinances online or have a link to an external host that does.

  2. 2

    Review the basics and get a thorough understanding of zoning symbols and codes. Residential zoning is usually divided into different classes. For example, R1, R2 and R3 are classifications often used for different types of residential property.

  3. 3

    Contact your municipality or county to purchase or review a zoning map. A zoning map will show what type of zoning is in place for your property.

  4. 4

    Ask questions about what the laws are and how they may affect you. For simple questions, you may be able to talk to a clerk. You will probably have to meet with a zoning officer to talk about zoning laws in greater detail.

  5. 5

    Find out how whether you can get a variance if you are planning an activity that does not meet local laws. A variance is an exception to the zoning laws. If you're permitted to apply for a variance, be sure to find out what the timeframe is for submitting it. Usually you'll have to be scheduled on the agenda to attend a zoning meeting. Keep this in mind when planning construction or business activities.

Tips and warnings

  • Local zoning laws can affect many business issues, and may even determine whether you are permitted to run a home-based business. Make sure you check them out very thoroughly before investing in or establishing your business.

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