Zoning codes

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The objective of zoning codes is to promote the safety, health, and general welfare of citizens. The earliest zoning ordinance on record in the USA was enacted in 1913 in New York City to regulate the height, size, and layout of buildings. The motion made by the president of Manhattan Borough stressed the need to limit building heights to stop the congested living and street conditions. In 1916, a more comprehensive ordinance was adopted to control the density and uses of land. During the 1920s, zoning codes were enacted in all regions of the nation. Topics covered in zoning codes include land use, setback, building codes, easements, parking restrictions, density, and building heights. Some include regulations for the aesthetics of buildings. Zoning has evolved since the 1920s and codes are continually revised to improve the quality of life for current residents. In the USA zoning codes are developed by a town’s council and enforced by the zoning officer, sheriff, or police officer. When necessary, they are interpreted by the judicial system, beginning with a Zoning Board of Appeals and then to the county, state, and Federal Court system.


Haar, C. M. & Kayden, J. S. (Eds.). (1989). Zoning and the American Dream. Chicago: Planners Press.

Wolf, M. A. (2008). The Zoning of America. Lawrence, (KA): University Press of Kansas.

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