What questions should I ask during zoning?

If you’re new to the zoning process, you may not be familiar with the different components of a site plan. Asking informed, detailed questions can help you learn about the different elements of a proposed development and how it could impact your neighborhood. To help, we’ve compiled a list of common questions you can ask or topics you should consider during your meetings with the developer.

Zoning Questions by Topic:

  • Zoning Impacts
    • VariancesA zoning variance can be requested by the developer to provide flexibility by allowing variations from the zoning ordinance. For example, a developer building a large mixed-use project wants to ... More, setbacksThe distance which a building is set back from a property line, street or road, a river or stream, or any other place which is deemed to need protection. Not to be confused with a Buffer., lot width, transitional height planesA geometric plane that establishes the maximum permitted height of a building in a district that allows a greater density than that of an adjoining lower-density residential district. The transitional...
  • Public Safety/ Transportation Impacts
    • Access points, public safety, congestion, buffersA portion of a lot set aside for open space and/or visual screening purposes. Buffers help separate different use districts, or to separate one property from another property. Traditional buffer..., and connectivity
  • Environmental Impacts
    • Adequate retention areas, conservation of trees
  • Aesthetic Compatibility
    • Mixed use concepts, landscaping, compatibility of exterior fronts
  • Educational Impacts
    • Impacted schools, capacity levels

Print this List of Questions!

Download a printable list of questions to bring along with you to meetings. This will give you a head start when learning about a zoning application.

Important

Remember, every neighborhood and zoning application is different and requires its own set of zoning guidelines and questioning. Some of the questions below may not be relevant to your application.

Zoning Impacts

Site Plan Questions

  • What’s the current lot size?
  • What is the current/proposed Land Use Type?
  • What is the current/proposed Zoning District Type?
  • What’s the benefit or reason for rezoning?
  • Are there conditionsConditions are a set of additional written rules or regulations that can be added to a zoning application. Zoning conditions may be requested by an applicant, recommended by the planning department... More on the property now?
  • Are you requesting variances for this property? What are those variances?
  • How are surrounding properties zoned?
  • What size buffers are required between properties?
  • Is there currently a structure on the site?
  • How tall will the new structure(s) be?
  • Do tall buildings conform to Transitional Height PlaneA geometric plane that establishes the maximum permitted height of a building in a district that allows a greater density than that of an adjoining lower-density residential district. The transitional... requirements?
  • Do you have confirmed tenants for office or retail?
  • Is there a marketing plan (website, pre-sales)?
  • Will construction be completed in phases (retail first, then housing, etc.)?
  • Who is the design firm?
  • What other projects has the design firm done?
  • What other projects has the developer done?

Housing Questions

  • What is the overall density of the development?
  • How many units are there (single family, townhomes & apartments)?
  • What is the price point for the housing?
  • What is the square footage of the units?
  • Are they rentals or buy-to-own (fee simple)?
  • Is housing build-to-suit or will model templates be used?
  • Will affordable, market rate or workforce housingWorkforce Housing generally refers to housing for those who are overqualified for affordable housing yet can’t afford the average market-rate home. Workforce housing is largely geared toward firefi... be included?
  • Are you retaining ownership of rentals?
  • What are the yard setbacks?
  • Are townhouses rear-loadedTypically refers townhomes or similar structures where a ground-level garage is accessed from the back of the building. Alternately, a Front-Loaded townhome garage is accessed from the front of t... or front-loadedTypically refers townhomes or similar structures where a ground-level garage is accessed from the front of the building. Alternately, a Rear-Loaded townhome garage is accessed from the back of the ...
  • Are there garages for single-family homes?
  • Will there be a homeowners associationA homeowner's association (HOA) is an organization in a subdivision, planned community or condominium that makes and enforces rules for the properties within its jurisdiction. The purchase of the prop...?
  • Is there federal or special financing involved (Section 8, Section 42, etc.)?

Public Safety & Transportation Impacts

Traffic

  • Has a traffic studyAn analysis which determines the effects that a particular development’s traffic will have on the transportation network in the community. These studies vary in their range of detail and complexity... been done?
  • How much increased traffic do you expect?
  • Will improvements be made to intersections or roads signals?
  • Will roads inside the development be public or private?
  • One-way or multi-lane roadways?
  • Are traffic calming devices involved (speed bumps, etc.)?
  • Parallel or on-street parking?
  • Suitable amount of parking spaces available?
  • Are there entry gates?
  • How many curb-cuts or entry points are there?
  • Can a firetruck or school bus turnaround?

Public Safety/ Works

  • What will the hours of operation be?
  • Will sidewalks or bike lanes be included?
  • How wide will sidewalks be?
  • Type of street lighting (upwards or downwards, LED or sodium vapour)?
  • Will recycling be available to residents?
  • Will dumpsters or rolling bins be used for refuse?
  • Will refuse containers be screened or hidden?
  • Are bicycle racks or storage lockers included?
  • Will fencing be constructed for security or privacy?
  • Is sewer capacity sufficient for the size of development?

Environmental Impacts

Water

  • How are you containing your water?
  • Underground – Detention PondA low lying area that is designed to temporarily hold a set amount of water while slowly draining to another location, or back to the water table. A water detention pond, by definition, detains water...Retention PondA retention pond is designed to hold a specific amount of water indefinitely. Usually the pond is designed to have drainage leading to another location when the water level gets above the pond capacit...?
  • How much impervious surfacesTypically refers to artificial structures, such as pavement (roads, sidewalks, driveways & parking lots) that are covered by impenetrable materials such as asphalt, concrete, brick, stone and roo... will there be?
  • What impact will stormwater runoff have?
  • Are there any protected streams or rivers nearby?
  • Has a hydrology studyA stormwater analysis of the existing & proposed conditions of a property (both on and off-site). This watershed study is based on land uses, drainage patterns, ground slopes and soil types to ge... been done?

Trees

  • Has a tree study been done?
  • Are there any specimen treesAny tree that has been individually designated by the county arborist to be notable by virtue of its outstanding size and quality for its particular species. Specimen trees are defined as any tre... on the property?
  • Are you going to save, relocate or replace them?

Greenspace

  • How much greenspace will be included?
  • Will it be a public or private park?
  • Would a playground or dog park be included?
  • What kind or buffers will be included in the plan?
  • Will buffers be graded or undisturbed?

Other Issues

  • Will asbestos, PCB’s or other hazardous waste be removed from the site?
  • Will materials, such as old concrete be reused on-site?

Aesthetic Compatibility

Construction & Signage Questions

  • What types of materials will be used for construction?
  • Does the development require signage?
  • How tall will the signs be & what materials will be used?
  • Are the signs internally illuminated at night?
  • Will this development create additional noise or light pollution?
  • Are cross-elevations of the buildings available?
  • Is there a landscape planDiagram of vegetation and structures for an outdoor area. A landscape plan creates a visual representation of a site using scaled dimensions and include natural elements like shrubs, trees, and gr... included?
  • Will there be streetscapes or screening vegetation used?
  • Are there historic aspects of the site or surrounding sites?

Educational Impacts

  • What schools will be impacted by the development?
  • Will this cause overcrowding in particular schools?
  • Will crosswalks and sidewalks be safe for children?
  • Can a school bus enter and exit the development?

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Print this List of Questions!

Download a printable list of questions to bring along with you to meetings. This will give you a head start when learning about a zoning application.

Learn More!

Take a look at our Zoning Glossary to learn about
commonly used terms and elements of zoning.