Key Things To Learn About Local Zoning Codes | Propertylogy

Key Things To Learn About Local Zoning Codes

By on January 16, 2014

As building codes vary from place to place, there cannot be a standard set of practices that applies to all buildings everywhere. Types of use for a property or even the weather can affect the differences in local zoning codes between properties and buildings. If you are just a regular home buyer, the main responsibility of adhering to these legal requirements lie with the developer. But when you are a developer or intend to build on a property you have purchased, you definitely need to learn about these information. Even when you have hired people to do these, it can only be advantageous to have a basic understanding of these information as well.

Every time a zoning code is implemented, edited, or removed, homes are going to benefit or lose value. So what are some of the common or variation of requirements you have to learn? Note that the details of these requirements vary from state to state, city to city, country to country, etc. You can only find out for sure what the details are with your local authorities.

Height of ground at foundation site

The height requirement is usually determined from an established benchmark. It will then determine the amount of fill you have to use to raise the height to it’s requirement or a proper grade level. On the other hand, it can also determine how much you have to remove to meet requirements. One of the key reasons for these height requirements is for the proper drainage of water. A problem in this area of construction can lead to water retention or the diversion of excessive water to your neighbours. You have to find out the exact requirements for your particular project from the local authorities.

Maximum building height

There are many reasons why there are height restrictions for buildings in an area. It is usually set as a certain number of floors up to a certain number of meters or feet. Depending on local codes, this height may or may not include the basement. It can also be a limit set for liveable area. For example, a limit can mean that no structure, liveable or not, can be built above maximum height limit. Or it may not take into account decorative or utility structures above the roof. If so, water tanks, elevator equipment, and other structures can extend above the limit as long as residential space is kept within height limits.

city zoningEasements

There will always be easements running through a property. The most common uses for these are for utility and traffic. A gas line, electrical cables, sewage drainages, optical cables, etc, can all have legal rights to run through parts of a property. If you are unlucky enough to have telephone or power cables running above your home, needless to say, you will not be able to build higher than these cables. Existing easements but not in use can either be used by the easement owners in future or vacated in future. As these are very valuable items, owners may be unwilling to let them go even if a fair compensation is offered by you. Properties can jump in value when easements are released as building restrictions are removed.

Disability access

This is a very important building criteria especially for public buildings. It not only is good public relations for building owners, but in many parts of the world, it is a legal requirement for the physically challenged to have easy access to buildings. The most common types of facilities are those built for wheelchair access like ramps, large doors, washrooms, parking lots, etc. This is something you definitely don’t want to miss out on carelessly.

Fire safety

It is easy to understand the rationale of fire safety requirements. You don’t need to be trapped in a building on fire to realise the importance of their existence. Compliance include fire extinguishers, unblocked fire escape, main passage, etc. When buying older buildings, you might find that the building is not compliant with the latest set of fire safety codes. It will then be your responsibility to check on violations and comply.


For historical and heritage purposes, some buildings and areas are protected from excessive construction and aesthetic makeovers. But these restrictions are usually confined to the exterior aesthetics rather than interior. Retrofitting requirement is common for these properties under conservation.

Green area and landscaping

This list the restrictions of harmful activities to nature. For example, uprooting trees and plants. For landscaping, some plants may be allowed while others are restricted from use. Exotic plants may require special permits from the proper authorities.

Parking requirements

How much space per parking lot is allowed depends from place to place. The amount of space allowed to build parking lots can also be restricted depending on a number of factors in including type of building, building size, building usage. For example, you will find these parking requirements vastly different between shopping malls and a residential building. Take note of the green area codes when implementing parking codes as they often overlap each other. When problems arise, you will usually have to reduce the building size or plan the building all over again.

Restrictions on usage

The best example on usage restrictions can be observed with industrial properties. Industrial properties often have a minimum distance to residential properties. Common sense tells us that this is due to air and noise pollution among others that industrial activities generate. The restrictions that apply to your property will dictate what kind of tenants you can have and what kind of activities can be done on the property.

Water retention

Water retention problem is an obvious challenge that investors miss out very often. It is overlooked as people just expect water to run down the city’s drainage system. Remember that a good drainage system is needed to guide water flow nicely into the city drainage system. A mistake here can costs you a huge amount of money to rectify. A failure to identify a problem here will cost even more money when the monsoon season hits.

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