Bureau of Planning & Zoning
City Hall - Room 125B
Rochester, New York 14614
What is Zoning?
Zoning is the means by which communities regulate the use of land and buildings to protect and promote the quality of life within their boundaries. Zoning regulations are also an important means of implementing the goals of the City’s comprehensive plan.
Under the Zoning Code, every city property is located in a specific zoning district and has an established legal use. If there was no Zoning Code, property owners could infringe on one another's use of property; nearby uses could be incompatible; structures could be built too close or too tall; the natural environment could be adversely impacted, and important historical and cultural assets could be lost.
Zoning regulations are therefore written to make the best uses of our already built environment; to protect the investments made in properties; and, to promote the development and enjoyment of neighborhoods.
The City of Rochester’s zoning regulations were comprehensively revised in 1929, 1957, 1975, and 2003.
Zoning Applications and Reviews
A Permit application is generally required to initiate a Zoning application and review. Permits are required to establish a use for a property, or to make improvements to it, and may be made by an owner or an individual with a contractual interest in the property, such as a lessee, contractor, or agent.
When an application for a Permit is made to the City of Rochester, a zoning review is initiated, and an application for a Certificate of Zoning Compliance (CZC) is opened. Applicants are encouraged to schedule pre-application meetings for their projects as needed.
Zoning regulations determine the types of uses and development allowed in each zoning district, as well as many detailed aspects of a development, such as accessory uses, parking, setbacks, screening, landscaping, and to some extent, design. Regulations are found in Chapter 120 of the City Code.
Approximately fifteen (15) different types of zoning districts exist in the City of Rochester, each with their own unique set of regulations for uses and development. There are also certain regulations applied "city-wide" or to "specified uses." Click here for the Zoning District Map.
Zoning regulations also identify certain special approval processes that may be required to approve changes to a property. Variances, Special Permits, Certificates of Appropriateness, Site Plan Approvals, and Subdivisions are the most commonly needed types of special approvals. Special approvals sometimes waive requirements written in the Zoning Code.
Special approvals are granted by a public board, a commission, City Council or by the Director of Planning and Zoning. Variances are granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals; Special Permits and Subdivision approvals are granted by the City Planning Commission ; Certificates of Appropriateness are approved by the Rochester Preservation Board; and Zoning text or map amendments are reviewed by the City Planning Commission and approved by City Council. Application forms and meeting schedules are available online for most of these processes.
All applications must be reviewed for their possible environmental impacts to our physical, cultural and historical assets. State and local environmental laws, known as "SEQR," enacted first in the 1970's, require specific compliance reviews to ensure that each project or change does not cause any significant adverse impacts to these assets.
The Director of Planning and Zoning must approve all Certificates of Zoning Compliance (CZC). The issuance of a Certificate establishes that a project or proposal complies with and meets all required zoning regulations for the requested approval. It is required before a Building Permit can be issued.