Land Use and Zoning

Land Use and Zoning


Welcome to LawShelf’s video course in land-use law. This course looks at zoning and zoning regulation alternatives as they have been applied throughout the United States. The course focuses specifically on urban planning, which is a subset of land-use law. Other areas of land-use law, such as those affecting mineral extraction, natural resources and environmental regulation, are covered by other LawShelf courses.

This is an introductory level course and no prior knowledge of real property law or land-use law is required.

The first module introduces the student to regulation of land-use and distinguishes urban planning from other aspects of land-use regulation. We will look at the development and goals of urban planning in the United States and focus on its benefits and how municipalities seek to achieve those benefits.

Modules two and three cover zoning laws. We will start by discussing the authorities under which municipalities may regulate their zoning and the constitutional and practical limitations on municipalities’ abilities to regulate. Limitations include environmental regulations, constitutional limitations and antidiscrimination laws.

Module three moves to the nuts and bolts of zoning ordinances by focusing on the types of zones typical in “Euclidian” zoning systems and the additional zoning types typical of zoning regulations today. We also look at types of zoning regulations that incentivize certain types of developments and lifestyles.

Module four covers the land-use process. We will look at the steps by which developers must prepare their zoning applications and initial reviews and the factors under which their applications will be scrutinized. We’ll look at preliminary reviews, the hearings and appeals or requests for reconsideration. We will also discuss the role of eminent domain and the famous (or infamous) Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London that allowed governments to seize private property to redevelop depressed districts.

Finally, module five looks at alternatives to traditional zoning laws, such as the “smart growth” paradigm, which often features urban growth boundaries. We will look at the relative advantages and disadvantages of each type of land-use regulation and focus on the example of Houston, Texas, which is, far and away, the largest American city with no comprehensive zoning code.

When you complete this course, you will possess a substantial bird’s-eye view of how zoning and land-use works in the United States and the goals that it seeks to achieve. By combining this course with our courses on environmental regulation and natural resource law, you can secure a comprehensive grasp of land development laws and restrictions in the United States.

Best of luck and we welcome your feedback.

What is a video-course?

A LawShelf video-course is an in-depth series of presentations on a discreet legal topic. LawShelf video-courses focus on practical legal information and applications and are each designed to familiarize the viewer with a legal topic quickly and efficiently.

Who should take a video-course?

Our video courses are designed for professionals such as attorneys, paralegals, corporate officers and financial professionals, as well as laypeople looking to deepen their knowledge of particular areas of law. The courses allow you to acquire the specific knowledge and skills that you need without the expense and time commitment of going “back to school” for a degree. 

How do I learn?

Video courses are divided into 5 or 6 modules.  Each module contains a video lesson (usually about 15 minutes long) and a series of self-test questions that you can use to practice and make sure that you understand the material.

How do I complete a video-course?

To complete a video-course, you must pass a 10-question multiple-choice examination by scoring 70% or higher.  The questions on the exam are randomly selected from the self-test question sets for the various modules. You can retake an exam as many times as you need to, though you will not get the same questions each time since the questions are drawn from an exam bank.

Is there limit to how many video-courses I can take or complete?

No. A LawShelf subscription enables you to access any and all LawShelf content, including all video-courses. You can take courses as quickly or slowly as your time allows.

Do I receive any recognition for completing a video-course?

Once you complete the course by passing the final exam, you will be awarded a digital badge to display as evidence of your training and accomplishment.

How will a digital badge help me? 

Modern educational trends are moving away from traditional classroom-based course completion models and towards skills-based education. Employers today care more about skills than ever before. LawShelf digital badges conform to the Open Badge standard and are verifiable records of your skills that can easily be shared online.

How long do I retain access to the course materials?

You retain access the modules and take the final exam as long as you are a subscriber to LawShelf.

Urban Planning - Module 1 of 5

The Landscape of Zoning Laws - Module 2 of 5

Zones, Zoning Rules and Exemptions - Module 3 of 5

The Land Use Process - Module 4 of 5

Alternatives to Traditional Zoning Laws - Module 5 of 5

Final Exam only needs to be taken by those seeking to earn the Digital Badge credentials for this course.