Zoning is a form of community planning. A city/town/village council, or a special board, divides the community into zones. Typically this board will zone tracts of land for residential, commercial, or industrial use, with variations on these three themes.
Zoning often falls short of its ostensible ideal, for one of two reasons:
- A wealthy individual or company will influence the zoning board, or the municipal council, to re-zone certain properties he/she/it acquires for more favorable use. This adversely affects other property owners by negating the expectations they had when they bought the property. This could constitute an unconstitutional taking of property, or at least of its value.
- A government official might use zoning to pressure a property owner to use his property in ways contrary to his wishes. This also would be an unconstitutional taking.
The city of Houston, Texas solves the problem in a radical way: it does not have zoning. In that way, neighboring property owners manage their own expectations of changes of the nearby environment through private negotiation.