Anthony Flint | Atlantic CityLab

A small park just off of Main St. in Farmingdale features a gazebo where events are held is seen on August 7, 2014. (Credit: Johnny Milano)Today’s topic is zoning. But before you reach for that double espresso, consider that there is really some exciting stuff going on in the field, fueled by Silicon Valley-level innovative thinking.

Most people might think of zoning as the province of white-haired volunteer boards, but in an increasingly developed world, it has a larger importance. Codes that guide development are the DNA of human settlement.

The problem is that most zoning hasn’t changed with the times, for nearly a century now. It’s like having traffic rules and manufacturer regulations based on the Model T.

A short history: The landmark 1926 Supreme Court case Euclid v. Ambler Realty confirmed the authority of local governments to lay down the law on building—literally. Zoning, in legal terms, is considered part of police powers, enforcing health and safety. A hundred years ago, cities were increasingly congested and dirty places, and planners sought to spread things out and separate noxious uses; a tannery shouldn’t be next to a townhouse, and so on. Read more