What You Need To Know About Land Use Planning

From ancient times to the modern day, as long as human beings have gathered together in communities they have engaged in some form of land use planning. As the population has exploded so has the complexity of land use planning. So, let’s take a deep dive to learn everything you need to know to gain a better understanding of land use planning.

What Is Land Use Planning?

At its core, land use planning is the collective governance and management of the allocation, development, and use of finite land resources within a community. Land use planning establishes, executes, and enforces policies and practices to ensure that a community’s land resources are used in the best interest of the current residents and future inhabitants.

The Importance Of Land Use Planning

Responsible and effective land use planning helps create and maintain orderly, safe, and aesthetically pleasing communities that support and enrich the lives of those who visit, live, or do business in the locale.

Effective land use planning serves many important functions including:

  • Improves and maintains air and water quality by monitoring and preventing excess pollution from having an adverse effect on the health of community inhabitants and visitors and protecting the natural environment for future generations
  • Helps to mitigate and prevent damage and loss to life and property caused by natural disasters such as flooding, high winds, freezing temperatures, wildfires, and other acts of nature
  • Manages and reduces excess noise and light pollution in residential and recreational areas
  • Protects the delicate balance between modern life and the natural environment by protecting the habitats of endangered and protected species of animal and plant life, and preventing the encroachment of the man made environment into the open spaces of the great outdoors
  • Manages the community’s economic growth through commercial and industrial development projects and tourism activity

Types Of Land Use Planning

It goes without saying that different types of communities will have different land use planning needs. So, let’s have a look at the most common types of land use planning, and the various areas where they overlap and interact with one another.



Residential land use planning is primarily concerned with the development of land and the construction of private residences intended to house the community’s residents. Residential land use planning may include determining the types of homes that can be constructed in a certain area, the number of homes that can be built or placed within a specified land area, the size and occupancy limits for homes, and the permitted uses and activities allowed within the area.

Residential land use planning takes into account several factors that affect the overall well-being of the community as a whole including:

  • The ability of local schools to accommodate students in the area
  • Sufficient amenities to provide necessary staples like food, gas, and other services
  • Crime mitigation policies
  • Utility services for each residential property


Commercial land use planning regulates the development and construction of commercial property within the community. Any property intended for use as a business, utility, service provider, or other type of infrastructure related to commerce or trade falls under the purview of commercial land use planning.

Effective commercial land use planning promotes and supports economic growth and ensures that commercial property development meets the needs of residents and visitors while maintaining the safety and character of the community.


Recreational land use planning manages the development of land to be used for community, commercial, or private recreation. Recreational property may include, public swimming pools, community and private parks, hiking trails, dog parks, amusement parks, golf courses, sports fields, and other spaces intended for entertainment, amusement, and other forms of recreation.
Proper recreational land use planning helps ensure that community members have access to ample open space for amusement, physical activity, and relaxation. As an added benefit, land use planning that provides for abundant, well-managed recreational land space often provides a significant tourism boost to the local economy.


Agricultural land use planning regulates and protects the development and cultivation of land designated for agricultural activities like the growing of crops, the keeping of livestock and poultry, and fish, and other farming and ranching activities.


Transportation land use manages the development of land needed to support transportation and travel infrastructure such as interior roads, freeways, highways, railways, subways, and airports.

Land Use Planning Considerations

Land Use Planning Considerations

Every community is unique and each land use planning case can come with its own set of concerns, and potential issues. Local land use authorities will consider several factors when approving land development or new construction.

Typical land use planning considerations may include:

  • The potential noise, odors, light, and activity generated by the proposed land use project
  • The potential environmental impact of the proposed project
  • The compatibility of the proposed use with the surrounding properties and the community as a whole
  • Any potential conflicts that are likely to occur with surrounding properties or the community as a whole
  • The potential impact on local infrastructure like roadways, utilities, and crime control
  • Potential impact on the value of surrounding properties
  • Potential impact on the cultural or economic growth of the community

Whether purchasing property for a residential, commercial, agricultural, recreational, or other use it is strongly advised that prospective buyers enlist the help of a qualified local land use attorney who is familiar with the unique land use planning considerations in the area. Having an experienced, and knowledgeable local expert in your corner will be a valuable resource to help you navigate the complicated land use planning process to get your land development or construction project the green light.