An overlay is a zoning tool used to apply extra regulations and restrictions to a specific area or property. Authorities implement an additional layer of rules on top of the existing zoning regulations. Authorities create overlay districts to address specific issues or goals that the current zoning regulations may not adequately cover.
Examples of overlay districts include:
- Environmental overlays: Authorities design these to protect sensitive habitats, wetlands, floodplains, and other natural resources from development. They restrict certain land uses and activities within the protected area, often requiring additional permits or approvals before any development can proceed.
- Historic preservation overlays: These aim to safeguard buildings, structures, and districts with historical, cultural, or architectural significance from demolition or inappropriate alterations. Proposed changes to protected properties under historic preservation overlays typically require review and approval by a historic preservation board or commission.
- Transit-oriented development overlays: These overlays promote development around transit stations and corridors. With the goal of creating vibrant, walkable, and sustainable neighborhoods. They often allow for higher-density development and mixed-use buildings, prioritizing a pedestrian-friendly environment.
Overlays serve as a powerful tool to address specific issues or goals within zoning. By providing additional regulations and guidance, overlays contribute to the creation of more vibrant, sustainable, and livable communities.