Zoning 101

Learn more about Euclidean Zoning, Form-Based Code, Mixed-Use Zoning and Transect Zoning

Zoning regulations play a critical role in shaping the physical and social fabric of our communities. They govern land use, determine what buildings can be developed, and influence the trajectory of community growth. About 97% of incorporated communities in the U.S. use Euclidean Zoning as their primary zoning framework (Hall, 2007). Additionally, 70% of residential areas in major cities in the U.S. restrict or ban apartments (Hanley, 2023). However, alternatives to this conventional approach exist, offering transformative possibilities for our communities and avenues for increasing the availability of attainable housing.

Euclidean Zoning

Euclidean zoning, also referred to as traditional or conventional zoning, is a use-based code that utilizes separation as a land use regulation. It divides land into distinct zones based on land use, such as residential, commercial, industrial and recreational.

The Industrial Revolution led to the adoption of Euclidean zoning, which aimed to separate incompatible lands in order to prevent the construction of industrial factories in close proximity to recreational or residential areas.

While Euclidean zoning provides predictability in land use decisions, there are social implications such as its use in practices like redlining segregated communities based on race. Use-based codes also foster car-dependance and limit the flexibility of development patterns.

One of the biggest downfalls relevant to Northwest Arkansas regarding Euclidean Zoning is the consumption of working and natural lands.

Form-Based Code

As an alternative to traditional use-based codes, form-based code prioritizes the physical form and design of buildings and land. Instead of focusing solely on separating land uses, form-based code emphasizes creating walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods with a strong sense of place and identity.

Form-based code provides detailed guidelines and standards for building design, street layout, and public spaces to achieve specific urban design objectives. This allows for more flexibility and creativity in development while ensuring compatibility with the surrounding context.

Mixed-Use Zoning

Mixed-use zoning seeks to promote a diverse community by allowing a mix of residential and commercial uses within the same area. It encourages integration and interaction between different activities, which fosters walkability, reduces vehicle trips and supports local economies by providing convenient access to services. It also promotes social interaction and a greater sense of community.

Transect Zoning

Transect zoning organizes land on a continuum that is based on intensity. The zones include:

T1: Natural

T2: Rural and working lands

T3: Sub-urban – typically single-family neighborhoods

T4: General – mixed-scale neighborhoods

T5: Center – main streets

T6: Core – intense areas of density, such as downtowns

Transect zoning aims to create a sustainable, context-sensitive development pattern by matching the intensity of land use with the characteristics of the surrounding environment.

Zoning regulations shape the built environment and influence the quality of life in our community. Current zoning laws across the U.S. predominately favor restrictive single-family residential land use, limited the diversity and vibrancy of our neighborhoods. While these restrictions safeguard against incompatible land uses, such as industrial factories adjacent to residential areas, relying solely on these regulation limits our potential for progress.

We need flexible zoning codes to allow for creating vibrant, equitable and sustainable places to live, work and play. By understanding these different approaches to land use regulations, we can work towards creating more resilient and inclusive communities.


Hall, E. (2007). Divide and Sprawl, Decline and Fall: A Comparative Critique of Euclidean Zoning. University of Pittsburgh Law Review, 68(4).

Hanley, A. (2023). Rethinking Zoning to Increase Affordable Housing. Journal of Housing and Community development. Rethinking Zoning to Increase Affordable Housing - The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO)