How Does Zoning Affect Land Use?

How Does Zoning Affect Land Use

Land use plans and zoning are often assumed to be the same thing. However, they are distinct elements that serve different purposes for the planning and development of cities. Land use, as the name suggests, is associated with planning, control, and rights of property. Zoning, on the other hand, is the allocation of land in a municipality by dividing them into different zones. The purpose of zoning is to protect and conserve the value of land use. To clarify the difference: 

  • Land Use – A process of organising the use of land to meet occupant’s needs while respecting the capabilities of the land. Land use planning balances private property rights with the desired community character. 
  • Zoning – Defines the rules and laws governing what and where people and institutions can and cannot build in our cities, suburbs and towns. Zoning is actually a planning control tool and the way governments regulate the physical development of land based on its usage, purpose, geology, etc.


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Land use control and zoning are both very important to our everyday lives.There are many types of land use in urban areas and each has specific designations and rules.  Some of the more broad types of land uses include: 

  • Residential – This type of land use regulates where people live. This is one of the more complex designations since there are different types of regulations in regards to density and types of residences that are allowed to be built from low-density (houses), medium-density (town houses), and high-density (apartment buildings). There’s even a separate category that allows for mixed-use development with a mix of residential, commercial, and recreational. 
  • Transportation – Used to help people get from one destination to another. It’s not just streets and railways but the buildings associated with those activities as well such as airports, train stations, and subway stations. 
  • Commercial – This is another designation that has separate “sub-designations” as well. Commercial land use may be warehouses, office buildings, restaurants, shops, or other commerce type buildings. 
  • Agricultural – Where residential regulations may restrict the number and types of animals on the property, agricultural land allows for the growing and harvesting of crops and livestock such as farms, ranches, and pastures. 
  • Industrial – This type of land use includes factories, warehouses, and shipping yards. Industrial use may be limited by types of industry and environmental concerns. 
  • Public Use – This category may include hospitals, schools, churches and municipal buildings. These areas are set aside for the general public use. 
  • Recreational – This land is set aside for parks, golf courses, open spaces, athletic fields, playgrounds, and swimming pools. 



Unfortunately, having the Aussie dream of building a house is not as easy as buying a piece of land, designing and building a beautiful building anywhere you want. Before you even consider purchasing a plot of land you must first determine if you can in fact build your dream home. This is because most cities and municipalities follow a comprehensive land plan that takes future land planning into account. In many cases, they’ve created an official map that outlines zoning, subdivision developments, street plans, public facilities, and other building regulations. All of these will affect what property you can buy and how you use that property. In order to get your dream project underway you will be required to follow additional restrictions that will be unique to each municipality and area. 

These restrictions may include: 

  • Specific requirements to the type of buildings allowed
  • Location of utility lines
  • Restrictions on accessory buildings
  • Building setbacks from the streets
  • Boundaries
  • Size and height of the building
  • Number of rooms
  • Frontage of lots
  • Minimum lot area
  • Side yards
  • Off-street parking
  • Historic or cultural site preservation
  • Ecological considerations 

The list can be varied and extensive, so before you buy, you must first check all zoning regulations to be sure that you can do what you want to do with the property.  A Town Planning Consultant is well equipped to offer advice and guide you through the different challenges that you may face when buying or developing a property.  A Town Planning Consultant is essential to ensuring the success of your application and finished project. 



Zoning guidelines are set in place by the local municipality and control the physical development of land as well as the types of uses allowed on each property. Generally, residential zoning laws regulate building dimensions and size. They specify the minimum distance that a structure must be set back from each property line and the maximum building size and height allowed for each property. 

Sometimes zoning will also limit the number of structures or parking spaces required or whether the owner is allowed to keep certain animals on the property. In a historic district for example, zoning regulations may be in place to preserve the character of the architecture and therefore also regulate material use and design. Zoning restrictions will vary for each community. 

In addition to the local zoning regulations, some properties are further restricted by Architectural Design Guidelines put in place by the neighborhood or subdivision.  The intent is to maintain a consistent standard among the homes in the community. Typically these rules will dictate exterior material choices, additional setbacks from property lines or number of outbuildings. These rules can be as involved as limiting garage configuration, window style or trim colour. 



We provides the Brisbane community with modern thinkers and trusted advisors who aim to provide each of their clients with a tailored approach to achieve their development objectives. 

We specialise in preparing, lodging and managing development applications around Brisbane and throughout the whole of Queensland. Our aim is to deliver highly innovative, cost-effective solutions across a wide spectrum of services including: 

  • Industry Town Planning
  • Commercial Town Planning
  • Operational Work
  • Subdivision
  • Residential Services
  • Advice Services 

If you would like more information or would like to request a quote for our town planning services contact us at Olearia Town Planning.