Advanced Zoning Techniques

Presentation given by Dana Johnson, AICP and Randy Mannino, AICP
during Summer 2007 GAZA conference

Overview of Zoning in Georgia

Zoning dates back to 1920s from Supreme Court decision regarding Town of Euclid, Ohio (Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co.) that upheld right of cities to divide their territory into districts.

Goal of zoning: avoid conflicts between land uses by grouping similar uses and separating incompatible uses.

Zoning is one of many tools used to implement land use policy set forth in the respective Comprehensive Plan.

Two Basic Components:

  • – Text: Definitions, descriptions, development standards, etc.
  • – Map: separate ENTIRE jurisdiction into zones or districts

GEORGIA Zoning Procedures Law: O.C.G.A. 36-66-1 et seq.

Effective January 1, 1986, the law applies to all jurisdictions utilizing zoning powers in Georgia

Establishes minimum procedures governing the exercise of that power to assure due process

What Does The Law Do?

  • – Defines a “zoning decision”
  • – Sets out procedures for making a “zoning decision”
  • – Establishes due process

EUCLIDEAN ZONING: the reigning zoning scheme

Derived from the U.S. Supreme Court case that established the constitutionality of municipal zoning (Village of Euclid, Ohio v. Ambler Realty Co. (1926)

Encourages local governments to separate land uses into small geographical areas known as zoning districts.

Single-family housing here (R-1)… Commercial (C-1)… Industrial (M-1)… separates uses into different segregated districts of the community…

Advanced Zoning Techniques

Form Based Codes

What are they?
Land development regulatory tool placing emphasis on physical form

Allows jurisdictions to translate public visioning workshops into codes in a manner that Euclidian Zoning is unable to do.

What are the elements of a FBC?
Regulating plan, building envelope standards, street sections, architectural standards, definitions

Who has done this?
Chicago, Il; Old Town Alexandria, VA; Contra Costa County, CA; Fayetteville, AR; and Woodford County, KY.

Overlay Districts

Identified boundaries of special interest and additional provisions for development or redevelopment superimposed over the underlying zoning map.

Additional Requirements/Standards: Build on underlying zoning, establish additional or stricter standards and criteria; standards of the overlay zone apply in addition to underlying zoning district.

Flexible zoning technique that allows a municipality to:

  1.  protect certain areas;
  2.  encourage certain types of development; and
  3.  discourage certain types of development.

Overlay zoning is not an exclusive zoning technique which operates alone. Overlay zoning offers tremendous flexibility by incorporating many other flexible zoning techniques available.

Many Uses

  • Historic District (downtown, intown resid.)
  • River Protection Corridors
  • Gateway Corridors (entrance into town)
  • Commercial Corridors
  • Commercial Nodes (crossroads)
  • Scenic Corridors (natural, heritage hwy)
  • Redevelopment Overlays


Conserve natural resources or realize development objectives without unduly disturbing the expectations created by the existing zoning ordinance.


A local government’s authority to create an overlay district is implied in the delegation of the power to enact zoning restrictions and create zoning districts.


The procedures for adopting an overlay district are the same as for adopting a zoning or rezoning provision.


In adopting an overlay district ordinance or law, the municipality should address several issues:

  1. Consider whether its objectives can be met by simply amending the underlying zoning ordinance.
  2. Be cautious that the provisions contained in the overlay district are sufficiently specific to provide clear guidance or incentives to the owners of properties and any administrative body involved in approving proposals.
  3. The overlay district’s burdens must be imposed on as uniformly as possible under the circumstances. Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions warn against singling out particular property owners to bear public burdens unreasonably.
  4. The provisions of the district must be reasonably related to the accomplishment of the law’s objectives.

Conservation Subdivisions
A housing development in a rural setting that is characterized by compact lots and common open space, and where the natural features of the land are maintained to the greatest extent possible.

What does a CS do?
Protects land that otherwise would be dedicated in lots as “protected” open-space through the use of a conservation easement.

The CS enables the protection of large areas of undisturbed land to sustain wildlife, protect water quality, and preserve tree canopies.

Four step process to CS development

  • Identify areas of significant natural resources
  • Locate building sites
  • Align streets and trails
  • Generate lot lines

Planned Unit Developments

Many names, similar concepts


Any development for which a jurisdiction approves a development plan as the basis for project development.

No standard definition.  Usage of the technique by local governments has established many optional methods of designing large tracts for more flexible development.


Most planned development ordinances state that the purpose is to achieve greater design flexibility on large tract development.

Residential ONLY: can be variety of densities

Mixed use: can be residential, commercial, also other options (public/institutional, parks, etc)

Typically created by the local legislature by adopting special provisions that apply to large scale developments.

Separate district or overlay applicable in existing districts

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