Tie Goes to the Landowner: Ambiguous Zoning Ordinances and the Strict Construction Rule

Program for Judicial Awareness Working Paper Series No. 11-01

Posted: 10 Mar 2011

Date Written: March 9, 2011

Abstract

Ambiguous zoning ordinances must be strictly construed in favor of property owners because zoning is in derogation of the property owner's common law right to use his or her property to its greatest utility. This "strict construction rule" acknowledges a basic presumption for property rights when zoning ordinances are incapable of clear application. In Washington State, however, courts have increasingly avoided the strict construction rule, deferring to zoning controls instead. This Article discusses the evolution of the strict construction rule in Washington, and argues that the rule should not be neglected in the future.

Keywords: law, land use, zoning, statutory construction, property rights, Washington

JEL Classification: K11

Suggested Citation

Himebaugh, Daniel A., Tie Goes to the Landowner: Ambiguous Zoning Ordinances and the Strict Construction Rule (March 9, 2011). Program for Judicial Awareness Working Paper Series No. 11-01, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1782257

Daniel A. Himebaugh (Contact Author)

Pacific Legal Foundation ( email )

10940 NE 33rd Place
Suite 210
Bellevue, WA 98004
United States

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