Zoning – What does it mean?


Zoning – you hear that word all the time, but what does it mean?
Well, basically every city in New Jersey has to have a zoning map that designates the nature and the density of buildings and uses within the different areas. This is necessary since it would cause chaos if there weren’t any control within the municipalities to regulate the character and use of property. For example, if density was not controlled within areas people would continue to build higher and denser which could become a real detriment to the city.
But who controls this ? Local governments do this by creating a “master plan” and by making local laws that implement this plan.The master plan in Hoboken is initially set by the planning board which is then put into law by the city council. The plan is developed to control growth and development. Because the specific pieces of a property may be unique, there is also the Hoboken Board of Adjustment which allows for adjustments from the strict terms of the master plan if reasons can be proven as to why the deviation from the master plan will not negatively impact the city.The zoning laws are enforced by the zoning officer and the building inspector of Hoboken. And if a person violates the zoning laws, the punishment can be severe and costly. The most egregious example of a zoning violation was when years ago, someone constructed a building on 3rd and Hudson and added 2 floors above what was allowed and for what they were permitted to do. The penalty was “take it down brick by brick and restore it to the correct height”.When we hear of zoning now a days it usually involves all the big developers creating all these big units but it can also have an immediate effect on regular condo and home owners. One of the most confusing areas in zoning for condo owners is permission to built the roof deck. Zoning also affects such things as: setbacks (the minimum distance away from streets or sidewalks that structures may be built), types of structures allowed, style & appearance of structures, lot sizes and much, much more. Because Hoboken is subject to such major zoning developments, the costs involved for a regular application for a small variance to an existing zoning rule, can often be more than the cost of the actual work.

The most important advise regarding zoning is that if you have any question as to whether or not zoning is permitted for something you plan on doing, ask first and then build. If you do it wrong, you are going to pay the consequences.


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