Urban planners use zoning codes to outline for what purpose lots of land and property can be used throughout a city or county. When determining the zoning laws for an area, they often use abbreviations that refer to the purpose for which the buildings, homes, and other fixtures can be utilized by owners. You can discover how the property you want to invest in or buy is zoned by learning more about the different types of zoning codes.


Residential zoning laws are applied to areas designated for the construction and use of residential homes. These structures can include:

  • Single family homes, or SFH
  • Suburban homesteads, or SH
  • Apartments
  • Duplexes
  • Trailer parks
  • Co-ops
  • Condominiums

Residential zoning codes also cover specifics pertaining to homes, such as whether or not a mobile home must be tied down or placed on a foundation or what kinds of and how many animals can be raised on a residential lot.

The codes also clarify if homeowners can operate businesses out of their residences. Zoning laws may restrict people from running home-based companies based on the type or nature of the business, hours of operation, parking, entrance facilities, noise, and other factors. In general, rules for home-based businesses tend to be more stringent for people living in apartments, condos, and duplexes than people living in private freestanding homes.


Commercial zoning codes apply to areas in a city that are set aside for business or corporate use. The types of zoning permitted for these districts include the building and operation of:

  • Offices
  • Restaurants
  • Shopping centers
  • Nightclubs
  • Hotels
  • Some types of warehouses and apartments

The zoning codes for commercial districts stipulate how close some types of businesses can exist to residential areas or structures like churches and schools. For example, an adult entertainment business may not be allowed to be built within a certain distance from an elementary school or place of worship.

The codes also depend on factors like noise, pollution, traffic, and other facets involved in running a business. Special codes are created and implemented for businesses like warehouses and factories. Commercial developments like airports may also require their own unique designation.


Industrial zoning codes are reserved for areas in a city set aside for factories, manufacturing plants, and many types of warehouses. The codes take into consideration factors like noise, pollution, traffic, and other facets involved in running a business. Commercial developments like airports may require their own unique designation.

Industrial zoning also depends on factors like lot coverage and the height of the buildings within the designated area. Set-back requirements are typically higher for properties zoned for industrial use.


Agricultural zones are found in areas and communities that rely significantly on agricultural production for their economic livelihood. The zoning codes for these districts restrict the types of commercial and residential development that is permitted by law. They also are designed to protect farms and agricultural developments from urban crawl.

The codes for agricultural typically allot a minimal amount of land for a residential structure. They also determine the size and density of agricultural production on each plot of land. Property owners must have their land zoned for agricultural use if they want to qualify for federal voluntary incentive, subsidy, and tax abatement programs.

Agricultural zoning is not the same as rural zoning codes. Rural zoning allows properties to be used for ranches and for the raising of cattle, horses, and other types of livestock.


Aesthetic zoning codes typically apply to upscale neighborhoods and gated communities, particularly those that are governed by homeowners’ associations or architectural committees. The laws for these unique neighborhoods allow the governing entities to oversee facets of property ownership like:

  • Home colors or color schemes
  • Landscaping
  • Mailbox styles and heights
  • Fences
  • Solar panels
  • Decks
  • Satellite dishes
  • Building materials

Any plans for developing or altering your home may need to be submitted to the HOA or architectural board.


Historic zoning codes protect buildings and homes that are over 50 years in age. They prevent the alteration to the original structures with the exception of repair, maintenance, and restoration as part of the historic plans for the buildings.

People who own historic buildings may qualify for tax incentives like a 20 percent tax credit for the rehabilitation of income-producing certified structures like commercial, industrial, and rental residential buildings. Historic zones can be governed in part by the National Register of Historic Places and the National Park Service.

Other Zoning Codes

For parts of the city that do not fall under the primary zoning codes, urban planners may use other categorizations that stipulate the use of the property. For example, combination zoning laws permit the unique makeup and function of the community.

Likewise, the permitted or accessory use zoning codes are used for built-in exceptions for structures that otherwise would be restricted in how they could function or serve the public. For instance, they allow a hotel to have nightclub or bar even though it operates in a district designated for other types of commercial use.

Government and urban planners use a variety of zoning categories for property throughout their city. You can learn about your property’s designated use by discovering the common types of zoning categories.