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Legislative method of controlling land use by regulating considerations such as the type of buildings that may be erected and population density. German and Swedish cities first applied zoning regulations in the late 19th century to address the problems of urban congestion and building height. The earliest U.S. zoning ordinances, which date from the beginning of the 20th century, were motivated by the need to regulate the location of commercial and industrial activities. In 1916 New York City adopted the first comprehensive zoning law; it and other early regulations were designed to protect property values and preserve light and air. Modern zoning regulations divide land use into three types: residential, commercial, and industrial. Within each designation, more specific aspects of development (e.g., building proximity, height, and type) are also determined. Zoning is often used to maintain the distinctive character of a town or city; an adverse consequence of such zoning is economic segregation. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled against such laws in 1977 when it declared the zoning regulations of one Chicago suburb discriminatory.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on zoning, visit Britannica.com.