What is zoning?

From Ohio State University Fact Sheet: Zoning CDFS-1265-99

Part 1 of 2


Since early in this century, zoning has been the major local tool for regulating land use in Ohio. Over the years zoning has evolved, and it continues to be at the heart of today’s land-use issues. A simple definition of zoning is a locally enacted law that regulates and controls the use of private property. It divides the jurisdiction into districts, or zones, for different uses and determines which uses are allowed. It regulates lot sizes, building heights, impacts on adjacent land uses, and other specifics.

The power to regulate land is delegated from the state to local governments. Three broad types of power are delegated to local governments – taxation, eminent domain, and police power. Zoning is a police power. Though zoning is widespread in Ohio, communities are not required to have zoning. Indeed, many communities have no zoning regulations in force, especially in southern and eastern Ohio.

The Purposes and Nature of Zoning

The purposes of zoning are to regulate land use, prevent land-use conflict, and allow growth to occur in a rational manner. More specifically, zoning aims to:

• Use land for its most suitable purpose.

• Protect or maintain property values.

• Promote public health and safety.

• Protect the environment.

• Manage traffic.

• Manage density.

• Encourage housing for a variety of lifestyles and economic levels.

• Manage aesthetics.

• Provide for more orderly development.

• Help attract business and industry.


Conversely, zoning in Ohio cannot:

• Prohibit farm buildings or farming decisions.

• Assure competent administration of the zoning resolution.

• Assure that land uses will be permanently retained as permitted under the zoning resolution.

• Guarantee the structural soundness of buildings.


Who Is in Charge of Zoning?

Cities and villages (incorporated areas / municipalities) in Ohio have the authority to administer zoning. They must do this according to the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) unless they have adopted a charter, which can give the municipality broader zoning and other powers. Charter communities may fashion zoning regulations that vary from (but cannot violate) the ORC.

Townships administer zoning in unincorporated areas (outside incorporated cities and villages) unless the township has voted to let the county administer zoning, which is called county zoning. Approximately 16% of counties in Ohio have county zoning in at least one township. Both townships and counties must administer zoning according to the ORC. Not all states delegate zoning authority to townships, but rather keep the authority at the county level.

Whether zoning is administered by the township, county, or municipality, it can be much more effective when based on an adopted comprehensive plan (see OSU Extension Fact Sheet CDFS 1269-99, Comprehensive Planning). Such a plan defines a community’s development goals and priorities – where, how, and when a community will grow – and spells out the tools necessary to reach the goals. One of these tools is zoning. Municipalities may adopt their own comprehensive plan, or may be part of a county comprehensive plan. A county or regional planning commission creates a county plan.

Previous Post
Leave a comment


  1. Anonymous

     /  January 13, 2015

    I like the statement above “Help attract business and industry”. But yet Angie Pollock all summer had a sign in her yard NO MEGA FARMS / Interesting how a “zoning inspector” can attract new business with that attitude??

    • There is a balance to be made between industries, including mega animal farms, that will not be detrimental to the environment. Everyone has
      their opionion and please continue this discussion.

  2. Reblogged this on Paulding Community Blog and commented:

    Why We Have Zoning, familiarize yourself with the enumerated list in the text, “Purpose and Nature of Zoning.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: