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What Are Land Use Maps?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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Land use maps are maps which provide information about land use. There are a number of different applications for such maps, and in many nations, land use maps are prepared by several government agencies, for a variety of reasons. Individual groups and organizations can also generate maps with land use information. Often, such maps are publicly available, so that people who are interested in land use trends can access them.

One form of land use map is a zoning map. Zoning maps are used to mark out areas designated for specific types of land use, so that people developing land know which kinds of uses will be allowed. The creation of zoning maps is part of the overall process of community planning, in which communities decide how they want to develop into the future. Zoning decisions can include things like setting aside greenspace, isolating industrial land, and so forth.

Another type of land use map is a map which shows utilization. Utilization maps are often used in zoning decisions to determine whether or not zoning changes need to be made. If, for example, only 60% of the land designated for residential use is in active use or development, it would suggest that making more residential zoning available is not necessary. Utilization land use maps show how land is being used, and may also indicate historic utilization information, and provide information about how long land has been developed.

Utilization maps can be very detailed and tremendously useful. They can highlight a variety of activities, including farming, mining, residential use, light industrial, heavy industrial, waste storage, and so forth so that people get a clear visual impression of how land in the area covered by the map is being used. Utilization land use maps can also be important from a development perspective because they provide data about historical use; land used for a tannery, for example, might not be a great place for a residential development.

Land use maps, records, and archives are often kept in central government buildings for the purpose of maintaining a coherent record. Researchers who want to study land use or the history of a region can access these archives, as can developers who want to know more about their land use options, and government officials who monitor land use. These maps can become important in zoning and property disputes, as people may be able to use them to prove or argue their case.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All The Science researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By highlighter — On Nov 21, 2010

@ Istria- GIS maps are very useful tools. They are maps that can incorporate any type of geographically referenced information. GIS maps are often very colorful maps that can display things like population density, crime concentrations, or risk levels for natural disasters. The uses of GIS maps are endless, and they can be used in all types of fields like the natural sciences, statistical analysis, criminal justice, urban planning, etc. You can use GIS maps to show traffic congestion hot spots, or to show how social issues relate to geographical regions.

A certificate in GIS is a great compliment to any degree. Most universities have some type of GIS certification program that is accessible to continuing students or non-degree seeking students just interested in the field. Holding a GIS certificate leads to increased pay for many fields. A professor of mine once told me that a GIS certificate can earn an engineer a 10% premium in pay.

By istria — On Nov 21, 2010

Does anyone know what GIS mapping is, and why is it important to urban planning? How do I learn about GIS mapping? I just declared my urban planning major so I believe that this may be relevant to me in the near future.

By Georgesplane — On Nov 21, 2010

Many urban areas publish their land-use and zoning maps on the city's website along with zoning regulations. These are great references for doing research on opening a business in an area, building a house, doing construction on an existing structure, and so on. The websites that host this information are also good for learning about future development projects that may affect an area.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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