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Investing | Real Estate

What Is R4 Zoning in Real Estate?

R4 Zoning is a Residential Zone in real estate. It’s often used for apartment complexes, but many other uses are permitted.

It’s also sometimes called “Multi-Family”. R4 zoning can be applied to single-family homes and duplexes as well, meaning that it has the potential to greatly increase the density of an area. This type of zone is ideal for developers who want to build densely without having to go through all the red tape required by more intense zones such as R3 or R5. The downside? These zones don’t typically come with much parking!

So what does this mean for you if you’re looking to buy property in an area zoned R4? Well, it means that there will be a lot of people around! That’s the upside. The downside? Noise, especially early in the morning. A lack of available parking. And these are just some examples of what you can expect to deal with if you’re thinking about buying real estate in an area zoned R4.

What is zoning?

Zoning is a mandatory part of real estate which outlines the type, development, and operational use of land. While its execution depends upon several different factors, the primary idea is to consider the area or town in great detail since that’s where the construction needs to happen. 

For example, zoning classifications consist of commercial, light commercial, industrial, light industrial, agricultural, institutional, single-family residential, and multi-family residential sectors.

That said, in this article, we will be discussing residential zoning, primarily the New York R4 zoning district, extensively. Our prime focus would remain upon the R4 lands’ purpose, objective, limitations, permitted use, and other dwelling unit requirements. If you’re interested in getting yourself educated regarding the given topic at hand, this guidepost will answer all your related questions diligently.

So, let’s skip to the main events and understand what it means by residential zoning districts, starting from its purpose!

Purpose of residential use zoning districts

Residential zoning districts are necessary for real estate development when you want to avoid mixing low populations with high population densities. That’s especially vital for jumping the unnecessary hassles and developmental conflicts among the community. 

Although separating zones into different population districts sounds simple in theory, there is plenty to think about when it comes to real-life implementation. 

For instance, the compartmentalization of each district should comply with the area’s traffic system, building congestion, natural lighting, airflow, privacy, and many other objectionable influences. Therefore, it’s essential to follow a system where public and residential installations can be made in accordance with the permitted uses.

Keeping these factors in mind, the New York residential zones are divided into five separate sectors, including R1, R2, R3, R4, and R5. However, before we move on to discuss these residential zoning districts distinctly, let us shed some light on a topic that many people find difficult to understand. That is, comparing residential zones with allocation zones.

Residential zones vs. Allocation zones

Several people who aren’t overly familiar with real estate terminologies often confuse residential zones with allocation zones. However, it’s crucial to understand that both terms are contrastingly different from each other and should never be used interchangeably. 

In simple words, allocation zones are “a group or series of areas and towns where social housing is made available.” To put things into further context for you, public or social housing is “a form of housing tenure provided by the government or non-profit organizations to people with low incomes or in need.”

When someone applies for social housing, they’re asked to select an area, town, or suburb where they would prefer to live. In essence, these sites are found inside different allocation zones, which has nothing to do with residential zones or zoning districts in the least.

Now, getting back to where we left things off in the previous section, let’s differentiate the five zoning districts based on their purpose and objectives.

Differentiating the five residential zones

As mentioned earlier, five residential zoning districts are allowed in real estate. This is to make it easier for the authorities involved to keep the development sectors in accordance with the population and other conflicting attributes. In this section, we will delineate the types of dwellings that are a part of separate zoning districts:

1. R1 zone – general residential

1.1 – Objective of R1 zone

In general residential districts, the primary objective is to provide housing facilities to the community. These may include different housing types, depending upon diverse population densities. In other words, the R1 zone enables land uses that provide living facilities or services to residents for meeting their day-to-day requirements.

1.2 – Permitted usage without consent

The only permitted usage of an R1 land that doesn’t require any consent from higher authorities is a basic “home residency” for accommodation.

1.3 – Permitted usage with consent

On the other hand, there can be several other residential purposes of using an R1 zone for which you’re required to ask for consent from the authorities before carrying on with your plans. These include:

  • Attached dwellings
  • Boarding houses
  • Bed and breakfast accommodation
  • Daycare or child care centers
  • Seniors housing
  • Hostels
  • Group Homes
  • Serviced apartments
  • Environmental facilities
  • Communal facilities
  • Exhibition homes
  • Neighborhood shops
  • Semi-detached dwelling
  • Multi-dwelling housing
  • Dual occupancies
  • Places of worship
  • Shop top housing
  • Signage
1.4 – Prohibited usage

Lastly, any dwelling not included in the previous two subsections is considered outright prohibited for development by the authorities.

2- R2 zone – low-density residential

2.1 – Objective of R2 zone

The objective of R2 zones is the same as that of the R1 zones, in essence. That is, to provide housing facilities to residents for meeting their day-to-day needs. However, there is one fundamental distinction between these zones that separate the two zoning districts. While there isn’t any such limitation applied to R1 zones, R2 districts can only tend to the housing needs of a community within a low-density residential environment.

2.2 – Permitted usage without consent

Similar to R1 zones, the only permitted use of R2 that doesn’t require consent from authorities is a basic home residency for accommodation.

2.3 – Permitted usage with consent

Here’s a list of facilities that require consent from authorities before an individual or a construction company carries out their plans:

  • Attached dwellings
  • Residential flat buildings
  • Group homes
  • Hospitals
  • Health consulting rooms
  • Indoor and outdoor recreational facilities
  • Boarding houses
  • Bed and breakfast accommodation
  • Daycare or child care centers
  • Seniors housing
  • Hostels
  • Veterinary hospitals
  • Environmental facilities
  • Communal facilities
  • Exhibition villages
  • Exhibition homes
  • Neighborhood shops
  • Roads
  • Semi-detached dwelling
  • Multi-dwelling housing
  • Dual occupancies
  • Places of worship
  • Shop top housing
  • Signage

2.4 – Prohibited usage

Development of any facility, residential or otherwise, not listed in the previous two subsections is prohibited by the authorities – with and without consent.

3- R3 zone – medium-density residential

3.1 – Objective of R3 zone

The primary objective of the R3 zoning district is to provide a wide range of developmental options to individuals and companies constructing residential facilities. However, unlike R1 and R2 zones, this district is restricted to a medium-density residential environment. Furthermore, the R3 zones should match the character and scale of other existing medium-density residential neighborhoods to promote consistency.

3.2 – Permitted usage without consent

To proceed with your developmental plans in the R3 zone, you need to ask for consent from authorities for everything delineated in the next section. In other words, you can’t execute any construction plan on your own without permission.

3.3 – Permitted usage with consent

The following is a list of housing facilities that require “to-proceed” validation from the authorities before carrying out such plans:

  • Housing residency
  • Attached dwellings
  • Residential flat buildings
  • Group homes
  • Hospitals
  • Informational or educational institutions
  • Indoor and outdoor recreational facilities
  • Boarding houses
  • Bed and breakfast accommodation
  • Daycare or child care centers
  • Seniors housing
  • Hostels
  • Veterinary hospitals
  • Communal facilities
  • Exhibition villages
  • Exhibition homes
  • Neighborhood shops
  • Roads
  • Semi-detached dwelling
  • Multi-dwelling housing
  • Dual occupancies
  • Places of worship
  • Shop top housing
  • Signage

3.4 – Prohibited usage

Any development project not listed in the previous subsection is considered prohibited for R3 zones.

4- R4 zone – high-density residential

4.1 – Objective of R4 zone

The objective of R4 zoning districts is to provide housing needs to any community, developed within a high-density residential environment. These zones are typically in close proximity to the city center or other high-commercial areas.

4.2 – Permitted usage without consent

It is necessary to ask for consent from the authorities before development of any given facility.

4.3 – Permitted usage with consent

You can ask for permission from the higher authorities to carry out your plans related to:

  • Basic housing for family’s accommodation
  • Bed and breakfast accommodation
  • Daycare or child care centers
  • Hostels
  • Seniors housing
  • Residential flat buildings
  • Serviced apartments
  • Boarding houses
  • Communal facilities
  • Neighborhood shops
  • Exhibition homes
  • Indoor recreational facilities
  • Multi-dwelling housing
  • Backpackers’ accommodation
  • Places to worship
  • Roads
  • Shop top housing
  • Signage

4.4 – Prohibited usage

Any facility not specified in the previous subsection is strictly prohibited for development.

5- R5 zone – large lot residential

5.1 – Objective of R5 zone

The R5 zone is the most complicated of all zoning districts since it provides residential facilities in a rural setting. The objective is to carry out developmental plans while preserving the environmentally sensitive areas and minimizing impacts on the scenic quality. Simply put, R5 zones ensure the new high-density residential allotments don’t hinder the existing orderly development of residential or public facilities. It is also taken into consideration that the current development plans do not cause an increase in demand for any facility or service to an unreasonable extent.

This is a significantly complex zoning district because its planning has to be carried out perfectly to reduce the chances of developmental conflicts with the adjoining zones.

5.2 – Permitted usage without consent

Any basic home residency can be developed in the R5 zone without requiring permission or consent from the authorities.

5.3 – Permitted usage with consent

Here’s a list of facilities that you can’t work on without consent:

  • Bed and breakfast accommodation
  • Daycare or child care centers
  • Communal facilities
  • Animal boarding or training organizations
  • Dwelling houses
  • Recreational areas
  • Farm buildings
  • Places of worship
  • Exhibition homes
  • Roadside stalls
  • Roads
  • Public signage and business identification signs

5.4 – Prohibited usage

Any developmental projects not listed in the last two subsections are prohibited, either with or without consent.

Now that we have discussed the different zoning districts and also understand what they entail, we can review the R4 zone in greater detail without wondering about the basics. The next section is entirely dedicated to the R4 zoning district, as initially promised.

A brief overview of R4 high-density and multi-family zoning district

As declared in the previous section, the purpose of R4 zones is to offer such areas to the community that levitates high-density residential development for one or more families. Given that you have consent from higher authorities, you can proceed with any plan that includes residential and small-scale commercial services like the development of neighborhood shops and bed and breakfast accommodation.

brown and black house

Moreover, most R4 zoning district projects include construction plans that enunciate attractive landscape aesthetics. These are located on relatively smaller lots or a cluster of them for providing much-needed open space.

To put things into further context, let’s review what R4 zones comprise, in addition to what we’ve already discussed previously.

1 – One dwelling unit per lot

To begin with, it’s not permitted to construct more than one dwelling unit (single-family dwelling) on a lot located in an R4 residential zone. The only exception for developing two-family or multi-family dwelling units is when the authorities have specifically allowed some zones to be utilized for this purpose.

2 – Minimum lot standards

Any lot area specifically dedicated for housing projects overlooking existing streets may utilize the property as delineated in the most recent plat record. Moreover, the lot area must be developed and used under the following legal standards:

  • Density – A maximum of 4 dwelling units per acre is permitted.
  • Lot Size – The lot size for a single dwelling must be at least ¼ acre.
  • Lot Frontage – Each residential plat located within the R4 zoning district must have a street right-of-way of at least 85 feet. Moreover, it should be accessible through a private road or driveway unless it’s a cluster-type subdivision.

3 – Setback requirements for primary dwellings

The following setback requirements apply to all primary dwellings (main residences where people live) on the R4 residential lots:

  • Front Yard Setback – The minimal front yard setback for every primary residential dwelling unit must be at least 20 feet wide. The only exception is when the lot area is located along the main road, where the minimum setback must be at least 30 feet.
  • Side Yard Setback – The minimal side yard setback for all primary dwellings must be at least 12 feet wide. Moreover, the side yard for all corner residences must be 12 feet from the side adjoining another plot and 20 feet from the side adjoining the street.
  • Rear Yard Setback – The minimal rear yard setback for all primary dwelling units must be at least 12 feet wide.
  • Easements – It is prohibited to have any dwelling or building within a platted easement area, no matter what kind.
  • Height and Land – It is prohibited to cross the maximum building height of 35 feet for any dwelling unit on the R4 zone intended for human inhabitants. As for windmills, silos, or any other accessory structure, it is recommended to have a land of a minimum of 5 acres. Plus, you’ll require additional consent from the authorities for carrying out this plan of action.

4 – Setback requirements for accessory structures

An accessory structure is an additional formation built on the principal structure. It includes gazebos, windmills, boathouses, silos, small pole barns, storage sheds, and similar-style buildings. The following setback requirements must be followed for such structures’ development:

  • Front Setback – It is prohibited to build an accessory structure overlooking a residential dwelling in a front setback.
  • Side Setback – A side setback must be at least 3 feet away from the side property line in R4 zones. However, you aren’t allowed to do the same in a corner lot area fronting the street.
  • Rear Setback – A rear setback must be at least 3 feet away from the rear property line in R4 zones.
  • Height – The maximum building height for an accessory structure is 16 feet. Anything larger than that should have to meet setback requirements specified for the primary dwellings.
  • Housing / Shelter – If the accessory structure is a housing facility or a shelter (i.e., an animal shelter), it must be at least fifty feet away from the adjacent dwelling on the same lot area. Moreover, all pens, barns, coops, corrals, and similar-style animal enclosures should be located at least 150 feet from the adjacent lots or dwelling units. 
  • Easements – You aren’t permitted to build a permanent accessory structure within an R4 platted easement area.

5 – Additional requirements for accessory uses

In real estate, accessory uses are defined as land facilities or activities incidental to the primary use. Private swimming pools, detached garages, parking areas, and tennis courts are the most common examples of accessory uses.

The requirements given below must be followed when developing such facilities in New York:

  • Attachments like private pools and tennis courts are allowed in an R4 rear yard, provided these are located at least 20 feet from an adjoining lot or dwelling. Plus, they must be at least 6 feet from the property lines.
  • Accessory buildings, such as detached garages or parking sheds, should have a maximum height of 16 feet. Furthermore, these attachments should not cover more than 50 percent of the rear yard area. Additionally, it isn’t allowed for these buildings to be less than 3 feet from the property line.
  • Similarly, it’s allowed to have a hard-surfaced parking lot area in the R4 zone, provided that it doesn’t cover more than 50 percent of the rear yard area or is any closer than 3 feet from the property line.
  • Moreover, accessory uses like decks, air conditioning units, and hot tubs 12 inches or less above grade are allowed within the rear yard lot area, provided they are at least 15 feet from another dwelling unit or adjoining lot and 3 feet from the property line.
  • You’re also allowed to have circular driveways in the front yard area of a residential lot that leads to and from a carport or a garage. However, this attachment is subjected to the following rules and regulations:
  • The circular driveways should be constructed of one or more of the given materials: concrete, cobblestone, asphalt, or any other “viable” option allowed by the local municipality. Creative designs are also encouraged to enhance landscape aesthetics.
  • These driveways should not be over 16 feet in width.
  • There must be a landscaped area 15 feet in depth, from the inside of the circular drive to the front property line.
  • Circular driveways are not to be used as a parking drive for boats, campers, motor homes, or any type of trailer.
  • Moreover, no portion of the front yard setback should be hard-surfaced or graveled when the driveway leads to a large parking area or a garage. This encourages easy automobile parking. 

6 – Accessory dwelling unit (adu)

An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a small yet independent residential-based structure located in the same lot area, but it is counted as a standalone. These usually include basements, attached or detached dwellings, attics, or converted garages.

The intent of including this provision in the R4 zone is to promote accessory dwellings as affordable housing opportunities while also preserving the quality of lifestyle in high-density residential districts. That’s why there’s a limitation of constructing only one accessory dwelling unit within a lot area. 

Not to mention, while these accessory dwellings are permitted in residential zones, you have to follow certain guidelines to acquire a permit. These include:

  • Parking – In addition to tending to the underlying parking requirements of the household unit, one extra on-site parking unit can be provided for the ADU.
  • Size – The size of the accessory dwelling unit must not exceed 1,000 gross square feet when measured from one exterior wall to another. However, if you calculate two-thirds of the primary dwelling and it is measured to be less than 1,000 square feet, the calculated value must be the size limit for the ADU.
  • Single Municipal Utility Meters – The primary dwelling and accessory dwelling unit must have the same municipal utility meters.
  • Building and Fire Codes – The construction and improvements associated with the accessory dwelling unit must meet all building regulations and fire codes in effect.

7 – Height requirements and provisions

In general, the maximum building height in New York R4 residential districts must be measured in terms of vertical distance from the natural grade to the highest point of a flat roof, the deck line of a mansard roof, or the ridge of a gable roof. Furthermore, under no circumstances should the mansard or gable roof be extended more than 18 inches over the maximum height limitation in the area.

Any roof that doesn’t fit clearly to the criteria described above must be classified in accordance with the roof that it most closely resembles. For example, roofs draining to the center should be referred to as flat or mansard, depending upon whichever description matches their configuration better. 

As for constructing or attaching usable roof equipment, you must follow the given legal guidelines:

  • Chimneys, antennas, vents, flues, and similar-style attachments can legally stretch to no more than 8 feet over the delineated maximum height limit in the given zone.
  • Moreover, any mechanical equipment, such as water towers, can be extended up to 5 feet over the specified maximum height limit.
  • Lastly, architectural features, including bell towers and church spires may reach above the maximum specified height, but they can’t consist of any habitable spaces above the said limit. Moreover, these features must be included in the site plan for review and approval beforehand.

8 – Road access

It is prohibited to construct more than 5 dwellings on a private road situated inside the R4 zoning district. The same goes for any road with only one point of egress and ingress.

Additionally, all private roads must be constructed with straightforward access to all emergency service vehicles. Not to mention, they should have enough space to operate adequately, doing turnarounds and pull-outs, as required.

Finally, the authorities always have the power to access these private roads at any given time for the public’s safety.

9 – Landscaping

In New York R4 zoning districts, the lot area overlooking the residential structures and the front setbacks must be properly maintained with enhanced landscaping, consisting of plants, trees, shrubs, rocks, and grass. The only areas that can be left “as is” include parking lots, driveways, walkways, patios, decks, porches, and other utility areas.

Landscaping is made a necessary part of R4 zones to promote natural aesthetics in the community. It is an essential step to minimize installations of human-made modern structures in homes.

10 – Waste material and abandoned items

It is strictly prohibited to dump or store any waste material, non-operational equipment, wrecked devices, or abandoned vehicles within a public right-of-way. These include public sidewalk and front yard, side yard, or rear yard setback areas. 

Moreover, all objects mentioned earlier should also remain screened from the public eye and adjacent dwellings, even when stored inside enclosed buildings. If your front yard or rear yard encapsulates any such material, it should be the occupant’s duty to veil it from the outsiders, using appropriate landscaping methods and fencing.

Not to mention, there shouldn’t be any hazardous materials stored within the shed and storage units, including toxic chemicals, oils, or solvents that don’t meet the Health Department standards. This also applies to anything specifically made inaccessible for the public, even when it is not included in the list of department-suggested health regulations.

11 – Off-street parking

Each dwelling unit in New York R4 zoning district must comply with the offset parking provisions. In general, it’s essential to have off-street parking space for at least 2 automobiles per dwelling unit.

Furthermore, you aren’t allowed to park or store your boat, trailer, motor home, or trailer in the front yard setback, side yard setback, parking lot, or on the front street for more than 24 hours. Any resident’s guest with a personal vehicle has permission to park it in the front yard setback or side yard setback for up to 7 consecutive days. However, it’s not allowed to have any truck, commercial trailer, or construction vehicle weighing more than 12,000 pounds in the parking lot, front yard, or side yard setback of any residency.

12 – Signs

Lastly, there are a handful of signs permitted in the New York R4 zoning district, which you can discuss with the authorities if you plan to integrate them into your lot area.

Summary

Now that we have uncovered all the necessary information associated with R4 zoning in real estate, you can plan your development project much more appropriately. From keeping in mind the maximum building height limits to leaving an appropriate right-of-way from your property line to the main street, each regulation has its importance, and therefore, shouldn’t be contradicted at any point.