Euclidean Zoning

Euclidean zoning is a single-use zoning system where a town or community is divided into areas where specific uses of land are permitted. In the system, certain areas are designated as residential, commercial, or manufacturing districts.

The term Euclidean zoning comes from the 1926 court case Village of Euclid, Ohio vs. Ambler Realty Co. In an attempt to prevent industrial growth from the city of Cleveland encroaching into the village, Euclid created zoning ordinances based on six classes of use and various other height and area restrictions on development. This made it difficult for Ambler Realty to develop in Euclid, so they sued the village. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which dismissed Ambler Realty’s claim in favor of Euclid. (, 2022)

The result of the decision has led to an overwhelming trend towards the adoption of Euclidean zoning throughout the United States. While there are many benefits to this system, such as preventing encroachment of industrial zones onto residential neighborhoods like the case of Euclid, there are also drawbacks. For example, surveys have found that Euclidean zoning can exacerbate segregation issues and limit housing supplies and affordability through restrictive measures that make new housing construction difficult.

It has also led to increased urban sprawl, as single family zoning laws created a movement away from urban centers and promoted a dependence on cars as the primary means of transportation. (, 2018)

There are signs that Euclidean zoning may be on it’s way out, though. More cities and states are looking at ways to incorporate more mixed-use development as part of “smart growth plans. For example, in 2018, the Massachusetts state government passed General Law Chapter 40R, which encourages changes in zoning and development patterns across the state. (, 2018)

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