The Law Offices of Robert J. Delaney- Zoning


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           Folks have different ideas how best to live together in terms of what use is made of land next to each other.  Some think living (residential) next to a smoke spewing foundry (heavy industry), or putting a noisy bar (commercial) next to a church, or putting a hog operation (farming) next to a bakery (retail commercial), should be planned against.


          So in the 1970’s, and in some communities way before, towns and cities and counties created zoning ordinances planning and legislating what use of land could be made where.  Zoning Boards were created to consider or recommend adjustments in the best interests of the community.  Richmond recently conducted a lengthy debate over whether some greenspace along National Road East belonging to the Hayes Arboretum should be permitted to be converted to a commercial strip mall.  It was wonderful seeing the passionate community spirit on each side, whatever your views.


Most matters only concern the few adjoining neighbors. In fact, all modification of existing zoning usage requires notice to every adjoining  landowner and an opportunity to speak for or against (or send a letter) the proposed modification.

The best way to get an inexpensive use change through the relevant zoning board is to get all your neighbors to sign a petition in favor of your proposed usage change.

The following are common types of zoning usages in a community:

Wayne County is divided into sixteen categories of zoning districts as follows:



GB-1      Conservation District

GB-2      Flood District

GB-3      Restricted District


A-1         Agricultural District

A-2         Agricultural – Biglot

A-3         Limited Agricultural District

A-4         Agricultural Preservation District

R-S        One-Family Suburban Residence District

R-1         One-Family Residence District

R-2         Multi-Family Residence District




C-1         Neighborhood Business District

C-2         Community Business District

C-3         General Business District

M-1        Light Industrial District

M-2        General Industrial District

M-3        Rural Industrial District


The City of Richmond is divided into eighteen categories of zoning districts as follows:



R-1      One-Family Residence District

R-2      One-Family Residence District

R-e      One-;to-Eight Family Residence District

R-4      Multi-Family Residence District

O-1      Greenbelt District

A-1      Agricultural District (Ord. 35-1978)



C-1      Limited Commercial District

C-2      Commercial District

C-3      Central Business District

C-4      General Business District

M-1     Light Industrial District

M-2     General Industrial District

AZ       Airport Zone District (Ord. 59-1979; 93-1993)

Visual Enhancement District (Ord. 93-1993)

FH       Flood Hazard District (Ord. 26-1982; Ord. 91-1993)

SU       Special Use District (Ord. 31-1982)


Around the country communities have made widely different decisions about usage restrictions in their community.  The most common cited opposites are Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Houston, Texas.  Hilton Head residents are dedicated to keeping their resort community lush and green looking, permit only very small business advertising signs, allow no polluting/manufacturing and are active in maintaining the fragile ecosystem (air, water, or soil) “as is.”  Every usage is carefully restricted.  Houston, Texas, on the other hand, is wide open with few restrictions and you might see a bar put in next to a church, a mansion next to a shack, or a dog food plant next to a bakery.  Each community decides how controlling or non-controlling it wants to be, and puts these decisions into their zoning laws.


A standard purpose and scope of local zoning laws would read like this:


This Ordinance is enacted for the purpose of promoting public health, safety, comfort, morals, convenience, and general public welfare by classifying, regulating and restricting the location, bulk and height of buildings and structures and of premises to be used for trade, industry, residence or other specified uses, all in accordance with a comprehensive plan for the desirable future development of the community; and to provide a method of administration and to prescribe penalties for the violations of provisions hereafter described.


A “nonconforming use” is a usage in one zoning area that does not fit the zoning area classification or definition. When zoning areas were set up, any use that did not fit that area usage was permitted to continue. It is said to be “grandfathered in”. However, if the nonconforming use is ever discontinued for a period of a year, the right to use the nonconforming use is lost forever.


It’s been enjoyable helping folks with their zoning petitions. I would be happy to talk to you about helping with your zoning issues

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