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Adopting Zoning for Development

As has been required of all local government units, all cities and municipalities should have a zoning ordinance.  Zoning consists of dividing a city or municipality into districts (residential, industrial, commercial, etc.) and regulating within such districts the permitted uses of land, lot sizes, density, building heights, parking, setbacks, and other requirements. Its primary purpose is to ensure and promote the health, safety and general well being of the occupants of the community by fixing reasonable standards to which buildings and structures must conform.

In the US, zoning practices are known to have already been practiced before the 1900's but were formally instituted in the 1920's.  It started when buildings in New York were began to grow in size. As skyscrapers were being built, the smaller houses and buildings were overshadowed. These gigantic structures blocked the view of those in the periphery. Of course, those affected protested. To avoid a recurrence of such, the city adopted a zoning ordinance, which to this day is being used by several of the major cities all over the world.

Zoning plays an important role in not only the development of new subdivisions, but also, in the preservation and maintenance of existing neighborhoods. After a subdivision is complete and the homes are turned over to its owners, the occupants introduce changes depending on their needs and tastes. Fences are built, driveways are widened, more rooms and additions are built. Over a period of time, the character and look of the subdivision begins to change. If left unregulated, the neighborhood could deteriorate.

A deteriorated neighborhood will lessen the value of properties, increase possible complaints by neighbors, and will make the place generally less livable eventually. Zoning regulations serve to control these changes in response to the individual and collective needs of the community.

Local Zoning Ordinances

Many of the major cities and municipalities in the Philippines have already adopted zoning measures. Take Lapu-lapu City, for example.  The city is 6,422 hectares in size.  Without a zoning ordinance, you can imagine how chaotic such a large place would be.  The zoning ordinance was adopted by the city in the year 2000.

Zoning is actually a subset of a bigger function of the city planning and development coordinating office.  Zoning helps them achieve their overriding goals by guiding them where to allow various developments to be placed. Zoning also helps in tax administration as zones fall into the same tax categories.

The zones can be divided into residential, commercial, industrial, tourism, airport, and institutional. Not surprisingly, tourist zones form one of the biggest accounting for 20% of total land area. Of similar size is the airport zone.  Surprisingly, residential and industrial zones account for only about 5% each, yet industrial zones is one of the biggest tax generators for the city. We also know that new residential areas have been opening every few months.


For every rule, there are exceptions (as long as as these are stipulated in the rules). Zoning is one of those rules. There are strict and clear guidelines for allowing some exceptions to following the zoning classification of a place. These are allowed to ensure some degree of flexibility especially if the requested exception will not generally disrupt the beauty and functionality of the environment.

Say you want to add a structure to your building than is allowed in a certain zone. You will have to apply for that exception and justify such. The process requires one to get the endorsement of the barangay unit after which a public hearing will be conducted where the individuals who will be most affected by the request should be in attendance. Then, there are other government unit requirements and certifications, such as that from DENR. The whole process could be tedious but will probably be completed in less than a year.

Significance of Zoning

So why is zoning important to us as buyers of real estate? Recently, a cooperative has been eying the construction of a four to five storey residential building in Lapulapu. They have already identified a lot that meet their requirements. All they needed to know was whether or not the city would allow them to build their planned structure on that particular lot.

To know if it was possible, they had to approach the city planning office and inquire about it. Luckily, there are no such restrictions against four or five storey residential buildings in their chosen lot based on its zoning classification. So the project will most probably go ahead as planned. Thus, before buying lot for a particular purpose, it is best to know the zoning classification of the property you have in mind. It is also best that you get a certification from the planning and development office to ensure that the structure you have in mind is allowed to be built in the area before you buy a property.


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