November 10, 2023

The Relationship Between Future Land Use & Zoning

Understanding the laws and regulations is often the first step in planning and development efforts. One of these first steps is to review the area’s future land use categories and zoning designations. You may think future land use categories and zoning designations are one and the same, or you may not be fully aware of their relationship. However, the better you understand what each is, how they differ from each other, and how they work together, the more successful your project will be.

What Is Future Land Use?

Adopted on the future land use map in a local jurisdiction’s comprehensive plan, future land use categories designate the general location, distribution, and extent of land uses within a community. The purpose of the future land use categories is to guide the growth and development of a community by planning the location and character of mixed-use centers, neighborhoods, commercial areas, office and professional areas, industrial areas, public services, infrastructure, and environmental assets. By planning how land is used, future land use policies ensure compatibility between adjacent land uses, provide for anticipated growth, ensure the availability of public facilities, services, and resources, and protect vital environmental resources and community assets.

Pursuant to Florida’s Growth Policy Act, F.S. 163, each future land use category must define allowable land uses, population densities, and building and structure intensities.  Additionally, communities may use the future land use policies to establish a framework for community character and design. By planning for the future use of land within a community, future land use assessments are concerned with the land itself, the people who live, work, and play in a community, and the area’s natural resources. It considers the cultural, humanitarian, and environmental impacts the use of the land will have. 

What Is Zoning? 

Adopted on the zoning map with a local jurisdiction’s land development regulations, zoning designations define the specific development standards for each land use designation. Zoning designations are specific and detailed. Zoning standards establish regulatory requirements pertaining to unit types and numbers, building square footage, lot size, architectural design, buffering, screening, and/or landscaping, transportation systems, utilities, recreation facilities, signage, lighting, length or type of occupancy, and construction materials and phasing.  

By creating these site-specific, detailed regulatory requirements, zoning standards do not just give a general description of how a community is to be developed, but specify how each piece of land is to be developed consistent with the community’s overarching future land use policies. 

The Connection between Future Land Use and Zoning

Future land use policies and zoning regulations work in tandem to create a full picture of how land will be used. Future land use categories help guide the growth and development of a community while zoning designations define the specific standards for how land is to be developed. As explained by Florida’s Growth Policy Act, future land use policies are required to be implemented by the standards established in the zoning standards. This is the reason that in Florida specifically, future land use categories and zoning designations must be consistent.  

Communities are not static entities and change with time. This also means the needs of the community might change in a way that warrants a change. Future land use categories may be changed through amendments to the adopted comprehensive plan and zoning designations may be changed through changes to the zoning map. The process to amend the comprehensive plan and change the zoning map is completed through a public process that considers the effects of the proposed change on the surrounding land uses, availability of public services, and community goals. Zoning changes also consider the compatibility of the change with the adopted future land use category. If a zoning map change would create an inconsistency, a change to the future land use map must be done as well. 

In order to ensure that local governments are able to carefully determine if the change is appropriate and meets the community’s goals, changing a property’s future land use category or zoning designation may be a lengthy, complicated process. Through this process, planners take into account the community’s goals, needs, demands, and future.  Additionally, planners consider the impact the change could have on the community’s current residents, natural resources, established development patterns, and ability to provide public services.

Supporting Communities and Navigating Regulations with JBPro

Understanding future land use and zoning requirements can be a challenge when developing a community, building, or site development project. But you don’t have to do this alone. Here at JBPro, we understand and are passionate about building beautiful spaces that implement a local government’s future land use policies through the execution of its zoning standards. We can help guide you through both future land use policies and zoning requirements in your community.  If you’re interested in learning more about the impact of land use and zoning on your specific project, contact us today!