Zoning is a method a community may use to regulate the use of land and structures. It is initiated by the adoption of a zoning ordinance designed to protect the public health, safety, and welfare and to guide growth.
When zoning was first utilized, its primary purpose was to prevent a property owner from using his or her property in ways which were a nuisance or actually harmful to neighboring property owners.
However, over the years the scope of zoning has expanded. Municipal governments and the courts no longer look upon zoning only as a "negative" tool to keep certain land uses out of a neighborhood, they also recognize its value as a "positive" tool for encouraging certain development and for creating an attractive community. In addition, zoning now frequently attempts to control development in areas subject to flooding, to preserve natural features (i.e. wetlands, forests, aquifers) and historic features and to save farmland. [ Source: Pennsylvania State. Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. Planning Series #4 Zoning. Harrisburg: State of Pennsylvania, 1999.]