Map from the Connecticut Zoning Atlas. Credit: Cornell University

Zoning laws passed by thousands of local governments across the country dictate much of what can be built in the United States. Zoning codes have serious implications for business, housing and quality of life, but can be very difficult for non-professionals to understand.


To close this information gap, the Laboratory of Legal Constructions, led by CRP Professor Sarah Bronin, has launched the National Zoning Atlas, which allows people to better understand zoning codes and their regulatory constraints.

“We envision the National Zoning Atlas as the Rosetta Zoning Stone: translating complex, technical, bureaucratic jargon into clear maps and graphics,” said Bronin, who also studies at Cornell School Law School and brings her property to the project’s legal expertise. “Once we get the critical mass of jurisdictions included in the National Zoning Atlas, we will be able to unlock huge, unprecedented secondary research in housing, education, transportation, environmental policy, climate response, economic development and more.”

Bronin’s team created a standard methodology for data collection based on the Connecticut Zoning Atlas. He also heads the New York Zoning Atlas, which kicked off April 19 at the College of Architecture, Art and Planning. The center aims to help politicians, communities and other staff address the pressing issues facing cities around the world, from climate adaptation to urban mobility to clean air and water.

“The National Zoning Atlas and the work of Sarah and her team so clearly encapsulate the type of collaborative interdisciplinary approach needed to fully understand our current challenges so we can build sustainable, livable places,” said CRP Chair and Professor Sophie Oldfield. . “It also illustrates the enormous potential of the new Cornell Mui Ho City Center, a place for CRP faculty who come together with other experts to gain effective and efficient knowledge on the wide range of important issues facing our communities.”

A national zoning atlas was launched to make American patchwork codes accessible and understandable

Demonstration of the level of information provided by the Connecticut Zoning Atlas, including demographic and economic profiles. Credit: Cornell University

Additional teams from Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire and Ohio are creating zoning atlases using the National Zoning Atlas.

At a minimum, these atlases will allow users to:

  • Determine whether one-, two-, three-, or four- and more living spaces are allowed in each area.
  • Know whether housing is subject to public hearings or there are restrictions on the size of the plot.
  • Understand the different rules for building additional living space (small spaces that are becoming increasingly popular as rental properties or apartments for older relatives).
  • Understand the minimum parking requirements, height restrictions, site coverage requirements, floor-to-area ratios and more.

To create this critical public resource, the Legal Constructs Lab calls for scientific collaboration with scientific, governmental, nonprofit organizations. private sectorand funding partners who share an interest in partnering with existing teams or in creating new teams at the state or regional levels.

When the National Zoning Atlas is completed, it will provide an opportunity to compare jurisdictions, highlight regional and national trends, and strengthen national planning for housing, transportation infrastructure, and climate response.

In addition to these practical results, researchers expect the national atlas to democratize zoning information and thus participate in land use decisions, inform zoning reform and reduce the wide information gap currently favored by land speculators, institutional investors and homeowners than socially and economically disadvantaged groups.


A zoning policy that promotes affordable housing: good for the heart?


Additional information:
National Zoning Atlas

Citation: The National Zoning Atlas aims to make Latin sewing of American codes accessible and understandable (2022, May 17), obtained May 17, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-05-national-zoning -atlas-aims-america.html

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