What is this thing called zoning?

Sellers often assume that because their property is situated on a busy road,  it will be ideal for buyers who want to open a business. Once again, only if the zoning allows for that. And in  these times of recession and high crime, families or friends often think it will be a good idea to flock together - buy a property and build a few homes on it, like a small, private complex. Good idea, but only if the zoning allows for that...

Each municipality has a Town Planning Scheme which stipulates the permitted use of land. A zoning certificate can be obtained from the Council, if you have the erf number. This zoning certificate will provide you with at least the following information:

Use Zone: such as Residential 1, Industrial or Business.

Height Zone: which indicates the number of storeys allowed.

F.A.R : the allowed ratio of the total floor area of buildings,  to the size of the land. FAR is the total floor area divided by the site area.

Coverage:  portion of the stand which may be built on, expressed as a percentage of the total size.

Density:  maximum number of dwellings which may be erected on the property.

Building Line: distance from property boundaries not to be built on.

Parking:  number of parking spaces that must be provided for.

Additional information on the zoning certificate may refer to the amendment scheme, especially if the property was rezoned at some stage.

Typical land-use or zoning categories in a zoning scheme include:

- Residential zones (e.g. single residential dwellings, group housing schemes or blocks of flats)
- Open space zones (e.g. public open spaces, parks, sports fields, cemeteries or private open spaces)
- Business and Commercial zones (e.g. shops or office blocks)
- Community and Institutional use zones (e.g. schools, clinics or places of worship)
- Industrial zones (e.g. factories, motor repair garages or warehouses)
- Municipal zones (e.g. electricity substations or water treatment plants)
- Transport zones (e.g. public roads, railway lines and public transport interchanges)
- Government zones (e.g. areas specifically reserved for government buildings)
- Agricultural zones (e.g. farmland)
- Special use zones (e.g. petrol stations)

In each of these categories, there may be further categories, which narrow down the use more specifically.

Residential zoning, for instance, differentiates between:

Residential 1 - the zoning which typically stipulates that properties can have a density of only one dwelling (house) per stand or erf.
Residential 2 - typically allows a density of between 10 and 20 dwellings per hectare. Bear in mind that a hectare is 10 000 square metres (or just under 2.5 acres). This is obviously the ideal zoning for cluster housing or townhouse complexes.
Residential 3 - typically permits a density of between 21 and 40 dwellings per hectare.
Residential 4 - allows for a density of more than 40 dwellings per hectare, and obviously caters for the construction of blocks of flats.

A property may only be used in accordance with the zoning. For that reason, it is not legal to open a shop, restaurant, office, factory or school on a property which is zoned as Residential. It is also not legal to build a few houses on a property which is zoned as Residential 1. The only way to do this, is to apply for rezoning, and it is not a given that this permission will be granted. A good townplanner (I can refer you to one!)  will be able to advise whether your planned use is in accordance with the guide lines for use in the area, and whether you have a reasonable chance for success to obtain the the required zoning rights.

 Buyers, beware!








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