Coastal Smart Growth Home: Getting Started: Overlay District
An overlay district is a zoning technique that allows a jurisdiction to superimpose additional requirements over a basic use zoning district without disturbing the requirements of the basic use district. In the instance of conflicting requirements, the stricter of the conflicting requirements applies.
How to Get Started
The Vermont Community Planning Toolbox provides an overview of Overlay Districts, what they are generally used for, case studies, and a link to the Vermont Planning Statutes. The most common application of overlay districts in Vermont are flood hazard districts, where certain types of land use and development are required to comply with site and building standards if the property is located within a mapped flood hazard area. However, another overlay District used includes parking districts, that reduce parking requirements in compact, mixed use areas, or Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Overlay Districts that grant incentives for compact, mixed use development within walking distance of transit stops. Learn more at Vermont Natural Resources Council website.
The Georgia Quality Growth toolkit provides advice to local governments on tools that may be used to put quality growth principles into practice at the local level. Overlay Districts are one tool described in this resource with a supporting 'how-to' guide.
The Wisconsin Center for Land Use Education Overlay Zoning tool provides tool description, potential uses, and implementation guidelines.
EPA has found that many of the applicants to our Smart Growth Implementation Assistance program request help with updating and/or revising their codes. In response to this demand, EPA compiled this set of best-practice examples of adopted codes and guidelines from around the U.S. that support smart growth. This list is not exhaustive, but rather is a sampling of good, smart growth-supportive codes that could be used as models for communities trying to make similar updates to their zoning.