Do zoning laws limit urban landscape design?

Urban landscaping design can turn a site from a vacant lot into an area that appeals to our sense of beauty and provides a space for relaxation, exercise, play and nature preservation. The first stage of design is a careful assessment of the space as it already exists. A plot survey of the area should be available at your local courthouse; it will tell you the exact borders of the plot, elevations, and other useful information. It can also help to have the plans of existing nearby buildings or structures. Once you know exactly what you have to work with, you can start fantasizing about the space's potential.

Despite your dreams, you need to be realistic: This is the point at which you should check your state and city zoning laws, because they may limit what you're allowed to do. Zoning regulations differ from place to place and will depend on the exact location of the plot. The regulations generally refer to such issues as:


  • Drainage, irrigation, erosion control and fertilizer usage: These will particularly affect what type of plants you'll be able to use on the site. Bear in mind that some areas may recommend particular plants, or even require the use of native plants.
  • Fencing: There may be regulations delineating the placement and height of your fences, what they may be made of and how they must be maintained.
  • Decking and other wooden structures: These may be restricted, forbidden or require particular permits.
  • Retaining walls: You may need to put in walls to support changes to the site, or you may be required to maintain or replace existing walls.
  • Clearing and demolition: There are often regulations regarding the removal of existing structures on the plot. [source: Elsen] //]]]]> ]]>