A new ordinance will let lawyers, insurance agents and doctors snuggle a little tighter with residents.

In an effort to provide a buffer zone between commercial districts and residential areas, the Bountiful City Council, in a unanimous vote, created a new professional office (P-O) zone during Wednesday's meeting. The zone will include a number of specific businesses, including medical buildings, travel agencies and family counseling."If we have a nice professional office, it won't penetrate the neighborhood," said Tom Hardy, Bountiful's city manager.

Although most cities have professional offices, very few have a specific zone for their use, Hardy said. Instead, the offices are designated as commercial and often fall into the same zone as large retail stores, movie theaters or strip malls.

Because of their hours and clientele, professional offices can fit more easily into a neighborhood setting than most other commercial businesses, Hardy said. Typically, the offices close around 6 p.m. and have lower traffic volumes.

Currently, Bountiful has two professional offices zoned commercial but sitting within residential areas. Both, Hardy said, demonstrate what the new zone hopes to accomplish, since the city has received no complaints about either one.

One thing the new zone won't do is allow professional offices to open just anywhere in the city, said Blaine Gehring, Bountiful planning director.

"These will still have to be near a commercial area, not plunked down in the middle of a neighborhood," Gehring said.

The new zone will border existing commercial zones, allowing a phasing out between commercial districts and residential areas, Gehring said.

One major obstacle stands in the way of development within the P-O zones: very few will exist. As a city, Bountiful is nearly built out, and Gehring envisions only four or five areas where the zone could even be created.