Zoning is the application of common sense and fairness to the public regulations governing the use of private real estate. It is a painstaking, honest effort to provide each district or neighborhood, as nearly as practicable, with just such protection and just such liberty as are sensible in that particular district. It avoids the error of trying to apply exactly the same building regulations to every part of a city or town regardless of whether it is a suburban residence section, or a factory district, or a business and financial center. It fosters civic spirit by creating confidence in the justice and stability of the protection afforded.
Zoning gives everyone who lives or does business in a community a chance for the reasonable enjoyment of his rights. At the same time it protects him from unreasonable injury by neighbors who would seek private gain at his expense.
Zoning regulations differ in different districts according to the determined uses of the land for residence, business, or manufacturing, and according to the advisable heights and ground areas.
But these differing regulations are the same for all districts of the same type. They treat all men alike.
Some one has asked, "Does your city keep its gas range in the parlor and its piano in the kitchen?" That is what many an American city permits its household to do for it.
Yet many American cities do the same sort of thing when they allow stores to crowd in at random among private dwellings, and factories and public garages to come elbowing in among neat retail stores or well-kept apartment houses. Cities do no better when they allow office buildings so tall and bulky and so closely crowded that the lower floors not only become too dark and unsatisfactory for human use but for that very reason fail to earn a fair cash return to the individual investors.
It is this stupid, wasteful jumble which zoning will prevent and gradually correct. We must remember, however, that while zoning is a very important part of city planning, it should go hand in hand with planning streets and providing for parks and playgrounds and other essential features of a well-equipped city. Alone it is no universal panacea for all municipal ills, but as part of a larger program it pays the city and the citizens a quicker return than any other form of civic improvement.
Suppose you have just bought some land in a neighborhood of homes and built a cozy little house. There are two vacant lots south of you. If your town is zoned, no one can put up a large apartment house on those lots, overshadowing your home, stealing your sunshine and spoiling the investment of 20 years' saving. Nor is anyone at liberty to erect a noisy, malodorous public garage to keep you awake nights or to drive you to sell out for half of what you put into your home.
If a town is zoned, property values become more stable, mortgage companies are more ready to lend money, and more houses can be built.
A zoning law, if enacted in time, prevents an apartment house from becoming a giant airless hive, housing human beings like crowded bees. It provides that buildings may not be so high and so close that men and women must work in rooms never freshened by sunshine or lighted from the open sky.