Photo courtesy of Tim
McCabe, USDA NRCS
Within their zoning ordinances, communities may use overlay zones
to protect particular natural or cultural features, such as historic
districts, steep slopes, waterfronts, scenic views, agricultural
areas, aquifer recharge area, wetlands, watersheds, or downtown
Overlay zones build on the underlying zoning, by establishing
additional or stricter standards and criteria; the standards of
the overlay zone apply in addition to those of the underlying
zoning district. Overlay zoning can be an effective tool for communities
to use in protecting specific resources from development pressures.
For example, an overlay zone can be instituted for a specific
neighborhood to preserve its character and design by encouraging
new construction, and additions to existing buildings, that are
compatible with the neighborhood's building types and character.
An overlay zone can also be designated in areas to promote mixed-use
development, such as near community centers.
Additionally, municipalities can use overlay zones in existing
low density, single use areas to encourage mixed-use or higher
density development. An overlay zone may be used near a certain
intersection or street which is served by transit, in order to
increase the amount of housing to support that transit corridor.
Overlay zones could also be used to allow affordable housing as
a use by right in areas selected by the community, regardless
of the current zoning.