Short Paper: Limitations on Rights

OL-301 3-3 Short Paper: Limitations on Rights

Southern New Hampshire University

Limitations on Rights: Zoning Ordinance

When a piece of property is purchased, or many cases a home, there may be an understanding by the purchaser that they can do what they choose with said property. Well why can’t they? It’s their property they can do whatever they want, they have a right to do what they choose. However, this may not be the case for many. Ownership has transferred into ownership with limitations & restrictions. Zoning ordinances come in many forms and make it so that property remains in a certain set of standards per the town, city or state laws. The definition of zoning ordinance is “comprehensive plans that regulate and control the use of land and structures within designated land-use districts, in part by separating separate land-uses” (Galaty, Allaway & Kyle, 2018). To understand this a bit better, the comprehensive plan is the big picture and the details come from the zoning ordinances. Knowing what your right and left limits are is key when researching zoning laws in your area and recognizing particular ordinances can prevent undesirable costs.

Zoning ordinance, which is a use of governance over property by municipalities to standardize and regulate the nature and usage of property (Galaty, Allaway & Kyle, 2018). In a nutshell this explains that zoning can affect things such as permitted use of parcels of land, size of lots, the types of structures that can be built, how high buildings can be and the style/appearance of structures, to name a few. As these ordinances conform within a comprehensive plan, they however can remain flexible as society changes and allows local and state government the capability to adapt the environment of their communities. Residentially zoned portions of a town create room for residents to live and can reduce heavy traffic flow and noise (Kenton, 2018). Often zoning ordinances can be confusing, and interpretation can be misread. Many ordinances also cover how many people can reside in a residence which can include relatives as well.

Looking at the case of Moore-vs-Cleveland, a grandmother was given a 5-day jail sentence because of a breach of the city zoning ordinance regarding how many individuals could live in a dwelling. Due to the death of her grandson’s mother, she had allowed her grandson to come and live with her. At her home in East Cleveland, she resided with her son and two grandsons at this point. Due to the fact that they were not brothers, but cousins constituted one of the grandsons as an “illegal occupant”. She was subsequently was issued a violation from the city to where she refused to remove the newly invited grandson. This particular ordinance was enforced due to the language and definitional section stating that homes are zoned for single families. The case was argued that that the ordinance was constitutionally invalid, but due to the city’s stance on a commitment of preventing overcrowding, traffic congestion, and an unnecessary financial drain on the school structure, her motion to dismiss was not granted (Constitutional Society, n.d.).

In conclusion, making sure your aware of zoning ordinances within your municipality is very important as a property owner, and being educated about the rights you have is equally as important. Every town, city or state has varying zoning ordinances that can be punishable by law if not followed. These ordinances, as frustrating as they can be, are put into place in the best interests of all citizens. Zoning is an essential part of protecting neighborhoods, providing limitations on overpopulation, and separating businesses from areas that may be better suited for residential use. They maintain order and create a system of checks and balances that changes with our evolving societies. In the case of Moore-vs-Cleveland, there are certainly some debatable aspects of the case and maybe the punishment was unjust when considering the family’s situation. However, this is why zoning ordinances are flexible and can be altered for the better good of property-owning citizens.


Constitutional Society (n.d.) Moore vs Cleveland. Retrieved from

Galaty, F.W., Allaway, W. J., Kyle, R. C. (2018). Modern Real Estate Practice. 20th Edition, Dearborn Real Estate Education, Kaplan Inc.

Kenton, Will (2018) Zoning Ordinance Definition. Retrieved from,

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