Purpose of Zoning and Land Use Planning Programme
Conceptualizing, initiating and executing comprehensive plans for Liberia’s municipalities are the basis for the establishment of the Zoning and Land Use Planning Programme which is carried out by the Zoning and Land Use Division or simply put, the National Zoning Office of the Ministry of Public Works.
It has been envisaged that such planning must consider the country’s vision for future development; the policies, goals, principles, and standards upon which the development of the nation is based; the proposed location, extent, and intensity of future land usage; existing and anticipated future housing needs; the location and types of transportation required; the location of public and private utilities; and the location of educational, recreational, and cultural facilities including libraries, hospitals, and fire and police stations.
Its establishment was also meant to help determine how our current and future cities’ natural geographical features would be utilized to imbue acceptable architectural standards and improvement in our municipalities.
Thus, the Programme administers the Country‘s Land Use Code. Responsibilities range from granting Zoning and Occupancy Permits for new construction as well as existing structures requiring improvement in additions to managing development applications for the Ministry of Public Works. The Zoning and Land Use Planning Division also known and referred to as the National Zoning office similarly supports the National Zoning Council by providing it with comprehensive reports on its activities nationwide as well as participate in hearings chaired by the Council intended to address grievances emerging out of the Division’s work.
In addition, the Programme also constitutes the review of site plans and subdivision plans for the Ministry Senior Management Team and the National Zoning Council –which serves as a board of appeal for possibly aggrieved individuals and institutions which are one way or the other affected by the various city restoration projects being undertaken by the National Zoning Office in an attempt to give Monrovia and various counties capitals the facelift they urgently need having been engulfed by shanty towns, slumps, makeshift structures characterized by a total disregard for the National Zoning Laws of Liberia.
Besides, the National Zoning Officer being appointed by the President of the Republic, the roles and responsibilities are set out in the National Zoning Act of the City of Monrovia enacted in 1957. For the record, this law is currently undergoing review with the objective of re-enactment so that its mandates cover the entire country as well as incorporate contemporary realities.
The 1957 act provides ample scope for the National Zoning Office to fully execute its mandates. It guarantees national planning goals and interests are taken into account in local land-use plans, zoning plans and structural visions prepared by the public and private sectors including individuals and firms, for instance that no institution or individual initiate any construction without firstly applying and receiving zoning permit from the Ministry of Public Works.
The National Zoning and Land Use Planning Programme ensure the regulation of development and land use in cities across Liberia. The Division’s responsibilities include comprehensive planning, zoning and subdivision regulations. And have requirements and restrictions relating to the use of city rights-of-way, including sidewalks, driveways, alleys, drainage among several others.
Hence, the Programme in its entirety ensures that comprehensive planning is followed by the implementation of adopted zoning processes that conform to plans already approved. Zoning then becomes the legal tool that is use in promoting the public’s health, safety, and welfare in all municipalities across the country.
Therefore, it important to remember that land are to divided into zones for different land uses, such as commercial, industrial, and residential. Typically regulated are the location, height, bulk, and number of stories of buildings and other structures. Also regulated are the percentages of lot areas that may be occupied; the setback building lines; the size of yards, courts, and other open spaces; the density of population; and the uses of buildings.
Geographic Information System (GIS) services and expertise also reside in the Zoning and Land Use Planning Division. The maps generated by the Division are prepared on the MPW GIS system. This system was instrumental in the preparation of the Master Plan Study on Urban Facilities Restoration and Improvement in Monrovia carried out and finalized in September 2009; a project jointly executed by the Ministry of Public Works and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Liberia Project Office.
Glimpse of Zoning Laws & Activities:
Anyone seeking to construct or alter a structure in Liberia must first apply for a Zoning or Occupancy Permits at the Ministry of Public Works through its National Zoning Office (NZO).Upon review of request and subsequently performed inspections, the Ministry will then issue the final certificate of occupancy or construction.
The Division of Zoning and Land Use Planning or National Zoning Office regulates activities in the public rights-of-way, which includes streets, sidewalks, alleys, and drainage ways. In Monrovia and other cities across the country, the street rights-of-way have been abused and neglected for many years attributable to the 15 years of conflict but through the invigorated activities of the Ministry, the situation is becoming a thing of the past; considerable effort having been made to correct these structural defects in the capital and other cities around Liberia. Some of the counties that have benefitted through the Ministry’s Zoning and Land Use Programme include but are not limited to: Monrovia City, Kakata City, Gbarnga City, Sanniquille City, Karnplay City, Voinjama and Zorzor Cities.