Traditionally, zoning investigation was not the architect's responsibility. It is not in the scope of Basic Services. Many public bodies think they are exempt from zoning requirements. I don't think they should be. And many private entities are oblivious. In both cases, you will find that no one is going to look at zoning if you don't.
We use two strategies. 1] For public clients we take a quick look at the requirements before we are told to ignore them. We then report on any POLITICAL liabilities that might lie ahead due to zoning along with an offer to investigate and report back as an additional service. 2] For private clients we ask how they want to handle the zoning investigation so that we know how to design the building to keep them out of hot water. We point out that we can do it as an additional service.
To oversimplify, zoning permits certain uses, allows others conditionally, regulates setbacks from property lines to structures, curb cuts, and sets requirements for parking, signage, fencing, and often landscaping.
If you have a landscape architect or civil engineer on the design team, you might delegate the zoning issues to them. My experience is that you will still have to spend time reviewing the zoning ordinances yourself if you want to make sure of compliance. The LAs are too willing to recommend exceptions, which are time consuming and not guaranteed. The civil engineers are, well, engineers; and the first idea they have that meets zoning will be the last idea they explore.
To assist us in doing the zoning investigations, we developed two documents - a checklist and a standard format for the report. (Click the links to download.) These are both good starting points, but every project has its unique issues that need to be sussed out.