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  The general process of subdividing geographical space for some purpose, especially for implementing public space-use policy. Zoning can be applied to a wide range of geographical contexts and purposes, such as allocating land uses to hazardous environments like flood plains and the reconciliation of competing commercial and recreational uses of water bodies. Whatever the context, individual tracts, or zones, are identified with some preferred uses(s) either by positive designation (for example, low-cost housing or community recreation) or the negative exclusion of undesirable ones. Zoning represents a regulatory rather than discretionary approach to land-use planning.

In North American cities, where the term is most widely applied today, decisions on what is allowed where, are taken in advance of particular applications, through zoning ordinances. In the USA zoning is \'the most influential public technique for controlling private land use … in the 20th century\' (Ervin, 1977, p. 6). Its first appearance in Boston in about 1904 was followed by the first zoning ordinance for an entire community, in New York City in 1916. A landmark decision in the US Supreme Court a decade later upheld the constitutional basis of zoning regulations, since when they have extended to specifying the height, density and size of urban construction, as well as permitted uses. Thwarted developers can challenge zoning ordinances through the Courts. The resulting complexity makes zoning systems prime candidates for the application of geographical information systems to track zoning codes and development permits.

For zoning\'s proponents it offers protection against undesirable externalities (for example, polluting, noisy or otherwise dangerous activities), constrains costs of supplying municipal services, and encourages the efficient provision of public goods. Its opponents emphasize the negative effects of slowing or preventing development and maintaining the status quo, by eliminating \'undesirable\' activities (for example, low-income housing) and others making heavy calls on local taxes for support services. Exclusionary zoning was seen at its most extreme form in the intra-urban racial geography of South African cities, under apartheid.

Generation of zoning regulations is very much part and parcel of local state politics within US municipalities. Most, although not all, operate under the aegis of state enabling legislation, which allows for a variety of municipality-level responses. However, determining the impact of urban zoning is far from straightforward, notably over the establishment of a credible counterfactual explanation (Pogodzinski and Sass, 1991). In some cases zoning may largely follow market trends, but elsewhere it can prove inflexible over growing urban needs, such as housing for the elderly and attempts at stimulating public over private transport. More generally, zoning plays a part in the emergence of a sense of community and the visible, cultural landscape of neighbourhoods in US cities (Schein, 1997). As an interesting exception, Houston has developed with no zoning regulations at all.

In other national contexts the significance of zoning in public land allocation policy is both different from the US context, and has evolved more over time. Thus in the complex case of the United Kingdom, the first tranche of local scale Development Plans, prepared under the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act, identified existing land use arrangements, and preferred future ones within the plan period, for mapped parcels of land. These were detailed both in their geographical boundaries and land use classification, and were the template against which subsequent planning applications would be judged. This close adherence to zoning principles is less evident in the more recent wave of Development Plans, where planning policy identifies preferred land use dispositions, based on underlying planning criteria. Such plans have to be \'in conformity\' with Structure Plans prepared at a larger geographical scale, following legislation of 1971, which offer strategic guidance on land-use policy, rather than specific zoning-based descriptions and prescriptions. (AGH)

References Ervin, D.E. et al. 1977: Land use control: evaluation economic and political effects. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger. Pogodzinski, J.M. and Sass, T.R. 1991: Measuring the effects of municipal zoning regulations: a survey. Urban Studies 28: 587-6 21. Schein, R.H. 1997: The place of landscape: a conceptual framework for interpreting an American scene. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 87: 660-80.



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