Last Revised 3/20/01


Zoning ordinances as the most commonly and extensively used local tools for regulating land-uses help to accomplish municipal development objectives. The regulations are designed to secure safety from fire, flood and other dangers, promote public health and welfare, and protect and improve property values.

Zoning regulates the use of land, the density of land-use, and the siting of development. Zoning ordinances typically consists of two components: the zoning map and zoning regulations. The zoning map divides a municipality into various land-use districts, such as residential, commercial, and industrial districts. The zoning regulations, on the other hand, describe the permissible land-uses in each of the various zoning districts identified on the zoning map. They also include dimensional and design standards for each district, such as the height of structures, minimum setbacks from building to property lines, and specify density requirements. Municipalities that decide to introduce zoning must follow the New York State enabling statutes as explained in the General City Law 20, Town Law 16, and Village Law 7 (exit this site).

Most municipalities establish the following or variations of the following zoning districts:

The State enabling statutes allow municipalities to provide relief from the strict application of zoning regulations. Use and area variances relax zoning regulations in terms of use and dimensional requirements. The standards for variances are set forth in the General City Law 81-b, Town Law 267-b and Village Law 7-71 (exit this site).

The State enabling statutes require municipal governments to comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) (exit this site) before approving projects proposed by private owners. The statutes do not require, but recommend that the municipal zoning ordinance complies with the municipal Comprehensive Plan (Master or General Plan).

The State enabling statutes grant municipalities the power to mandate specific design standards for proposed constructions. Most zoning ordinances throughout the Cayuga Watershed region require Planning Boards to consider development impact on erosion, sedimentation, drainage, flooding, water and sewer systems. Developers are often required to adopt adequate designs and measures to mitigate development impact. However, adequacy is very often not specified. Depending on how strict they are, mitigation measures and design standards can help to preserve and improve water quality.

Adequate erosion and sedimentation control measures, for example, might help to reduce the contamination of run-off water, thus keeping local watercourses clean. Decreasing the amount of impervious surfaces (e.g. parking lots) or increasing the use of pervious materials (e.g. crushed stones) might lead to less run-off water and cleaner ground water. Another measure to protection water quality is to regulate the location and practices of junkyards.

Municipal Zoning Ordinance Comparisons

 Exceptional Zoning Ordinances (only ordinances with water quality related provisions are included)

City of Ithaca

Town of Aurelius

Town of Catherine

Town of Cortlandville

Town of Danby

Town of Dryden

Town of Fayette

Town of Fleming

Town of Groton

Town of Homer

Town of Ithaca

Town of Lansing

Town of Seneca Falls

Town of Springport

Town of Ulysses

Town of Virgil

Village of Aurora

Village of Cayuga

Village of Dryden

Village of Freeville

Village of Lansing

Village of Trumansburg


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CLW IO 2004