Thursday, October 18, 2012

Real Estate Zoning

Zoning is a well-established method of land-use planning in many countries. Under this approach, specific parcels of land are designated as permissible for (i.e., “zoned for”) particular types of uses and activities, such as: residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial, or undeveloped open space. The fundamental purpose of zoning is to avoid undesired or incompatible combinations of land use within a community that would interfere with the community’s distinctive character or the land area’s overall intended purpose.

In some countries where zoning is actively practiced, the broader guidelines for a zoning regime would be set out by the central government and administered at the regional level by the local municipalities or governorates. In other countries, most zoning is spearheaded by local governments. Within each broad zoning category, there can be further subdivisions. For instance, a residential area could be divided into low-density housing with villas and single homes and high density housing with high-rise apartment buildings and an industrial area could be light and heavy industry zones. In urban zones, there could be residential, mixed residential-commercial, commercial, industrial and special zones (with power plants, airports, shopping malls, sports complex, etc.), and infrastructure for each zone is planned on the basis of its zoning designation.

Zoning is a relatively new concept in Oman; however, it could be poised to play a key role in the coming years as the Government increases its focus on sustainable real estate development. As the Sultanate features five regions subdivided into 61 districts and four governorates, this organizational structure could be a helpful starting point for giving Omani land, including property that is not yet developed or slated for development, zoning designations; this way, Government authorities and prospective property developers would be able to consider not only the applicable zoning for the particular lands they are contemplating for projects, but also the relevant zoning of the surrounding lands.