Did you know that Zoning is almost 90 Years Old?

Next year marks the 90th anniversary of the landmark United States Supreme Court Case Euclid v Ambler Realty, which upheld the basic constitutionality of local zoning.

A zoning ordinance divides a local government’s jurisdiction into districts or zones.  For each zone the ordinance regulates the type of land uses allowed, intensity or density of development, height, bulk and placement of structures, amount and design of parking, and a number of other aspects of land-use and development activity. 

“Zoning’s fundamental purpose is to protect a community’s health, safety and welfare. It prescribes standards for development by helping to protect public and private interest, preserve critical areas, promote orderly growth, and encourage development in keeping with community desires.  These land use regulations are a set of local laws that are codified into a document know as the Zoning Ordinance or Zoning Code.”…Sarasota County Planning and Development Service Cutsheet Series. 

The State of Florida mandates the counties draft a comprehensive plan. This is a policy document that establishes the community’s vision, goals and objectives.  Zoning Ordinance is the legally binding regulatory tool that helps make the Comprehensive plan a reality.

Zoning Districts classify lots and parcels into categories.  The most frequently used Districts are: commercial, industrial and residential.  Within these general categories there are more specific definitions.  Zoning regulations consists of two parts maps and documentation.

The Zoning Ordinance specifies the areas in which residential, industrial, recreational and commercial activities may take place.  For example, CN, Commercial Neighborhood, zoning districts only permits neighborhood scale businesses.  Big box stores are not permitted to use the land even if there is adequate space for their business.

Another way that properties are governed or controlled but not by the city or county governments is by “deed restrictions”. These are covenants that are written by the developer and then adopted and governed by the owners association of that community/project after the developer has completed or substantially completed the project.

When purchasing or leasing commercial property it is important to know the approved usage under the zoning classification.  It is a common practice to provide the zoning district and usage when advertising commercial property. 

The first step in deciding on a location for your business is to make yourself aware of what is permitted in the Zoning district and what is not.  For instance, you may what to open a restaurant and enjoy the use of an outdoor café seating with umbrellas and entertainment.  Some Commercial General (CG) zoning will not allow outdoor dining, displaying of merchandise and/or entertainment.  The Community Zoning Ordinance regulates the dimensional requirements for lots, buildings, signage, setbacks, wall height, etc.

Is zoning permanent?  No, both zoning districts and ordinances can be changed.  This can be a complex and costly investment.  I would urge you to seek legal representation if you are considering a zoning change request.

The following are a few of the most common zoning and districts in Sarasota County




Residential Estate


Residential Single Family


Residential Multifamily


Residential Manufactured Homes




Commercial Neighborhood


Office, Professional and Institution


General Commercial


Commercial Intensive


Commercial Highway Exchange


Commercial Marine


Industrial and Research


Industrial, Light Manufacturing and Warehouse


For more information about zoning in Charlotte County www.charlottecountyfl.gov/services/planningzoning in Sarasota country email zoning@scgov.net.