OpenCounter launches ZoningCheck


Alumni of Code for America, and makers of OpenCounter an app that helps users through the business permitting process, have launched a new app focused on zoning. ZoningCheck helps residents of a municipality figure out where they can locate a business, service, or other entity based on local zoning requirements.

ZoningCheck grew out of the OpenCounter project, as zoning is still a part of the business development process that is wholly offline. Putting permit forms online is generally an easier project for municipalities or civic techies, but zoning usually requires multiple trips to city hall in order to find out how land is zoned and the requirements.

ZoningCheck asks users what they are trying to do, where they are trying to do it (plus any conditional attributes that apply to the land use code — like whether a restaurant will serve alcohol, or how much floor area will be used for retail in a bakery), and then displays a customized map of where that business is permitted, conditionally permitted, or prohibited in the city. This calculation also includes overlay districts, whose combination with the base zoning layer can be very hard to understand.

Open Counter Enterprises the civic startup behind OpenCounter and ZoningCheck, is the work of Peter Koht and Joel Mahoney. Koht previously worked on economic development issues for the city of Santa Cruz, California and Mahoney was an inaugural Code for America fellow. The ZoningCheck project is backed by the Knight Foundation and the Code for America civic startup accelerator. The project was launched on Thursday at the ESRI user conference.

ZoningCheck is in beta. The service includes an initial group of 30 cities in California. As part of the public beta, Open Counter Enterprises is offering the first 50 qualified cities a year of free service on the ZoningCheck platform. Cities interested in the public beta can email for more information.