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Issues in Land Use Law & Zoning

Making Use of Overlay Zones

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Many communities are finding, with increasing frequency, that traditional zoning through residential, commercial, and industrial districts is not sophisticated enough to address complicated growth and development issues. To fill this void, local governments are creating zoning approaches with increased flexibility, aimed at more specialized targets and intended to solve problems identified in their community.

One of these tools is the overlay zone. The overlay zone is, as the name tells us, a special zone placed over an existing zoning district, part of a district, or a combination of districts. Put another way, the overlay zone includes a set of regulations that is applied to property within the overlay zone in addition to the requirements of the underlying or base zoning district.

The overlay typically provides requirements (or incentives) intended either to protect a specific resource or to encourage development in certain areas. Overlay zones allow for increased flexibility in local zoning since they more closely tailor needed requirements (or incentives) to areas within the community which share certain characteristics. …

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