ABCs of P&Z

Whether you’re familiar with planning and zoning or just starting to learn, it’s a good idea to build up your knowledge base. Zoning is a complex and important issue. The definitions below will help as you navigate through the information in this insert.

Agricultural clause (also referred to as a “notice of agricultural activity”):  Notification to individuals who seek to build in a rural area that they may experience noise, dust and odor associated with generally accepted farming practices (Indiana Land Resources Council 2014). This could be in the form of a notice signed by the applicant when applying for a permit or it could be attached to the deed. Counties may apply an agricultural clause to all new permits or a specific use such as a new residence or platted subdivisions.

Buffer: Separation distance between two uses or a use and a zoning district or municipality. Used as a tool to reduce land use conflict between uses not usually deemed compatible with each other.

BZA: Board of Zoning Appeals.

Development plan review: A process by which a plan commission reviews an applicant’s development plan to ensure the predetermined standards of the zoning ordinance have been met as allowed for in Indiana Code 36-7-4-1401.5.

IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmental Management): A state agency that regulates numerous activities as they relate to the environment.

Ordinance: A law, statute or regulation enacted by a local government entity. Zoning ordinances are the means for enforcing municipal law by defining land use within a municipality. The intention of zoning is to conserve the value of property and encourage appropriate land use throughout the locality (Legal Dictionary 2015).

Screening: Provides a visual barrier between a use and adjoining properties. Shelterbelts, fencing or earthen mounds are some of the methods used.

Setback: The distance of a building or improvements from the property line or specified right of way.

Shelterbelt: Trees and shrubs that must reach a cumulative minimum height of 6 feet prior to startup of operation. Used to protect livestock and farmsteads from wind and blowing snow (Indiana State Department of Agriculture).

Site scoring system: A mechanism to approve a local application for a new livestock facility through achievement of a predetermined score based on a series of objective criteria (Indiana State Department of Agriculture).

Standards: Provisions of the zoning ordinance regulating the characteristics of the development of a particular use or zoning district.

Site plan: A scaled drawing that shows the layout and arrangement of buildings and open space, including parking and yard areas, the provision for access to and from the public street system and often the location of facilities such as water and sewer lines and storm drainage systems (Stuart Meck 2002).

Variance: An exception to a zoning ordinance, authorized by the appropriate governmental body such as a planning commission, zoning board, county commissioners or a city council (LAW.COM).

Zoning: A system of developing a city or county plan in which various geographic areas (zones) are restricted to certain uses and development such as industrial, commercial, agricultural, single-family residential, multi-unit residential, parks, schools and other uses. Zoning is the chief planning tool of local government to guide the future development of a community (LAW.COM).

Zoning district: Designated districts based on the desired predominant use of land (e.g., residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural). Each district has a set of uses that are permitted by right or by special exemption and a set of standards which determine the character of the district.

(Source: “County Regulation of Confined Feeding Operations in Indiana: An Overview,” by Purdue University Extension)