Making Sense of a 'Misunderstanding of the Planning Process': Examining the Relationship Between Zoning and Rezoning Under the Change-or-Mistake Rule
50 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2011 Last revised: 10 Oct 2012
Date Written: August 22, 2011
In some states, zoning is marked by the persistence of the so-called “change or mistake rule." In contrast to the traditional deference afforded to local zoning decisions, this rule limits the freedom of local governments to make site-specific zoning amendments by burdening the applicant to justify the rezone with evidence of a mistake or a substantial change in circumstances since the initial zoning designation was adopted. Despite being chastised in the courts and labeled in legal literature as a “clear misunderstanding of the planning process,” the rule has endured for over a half a century. This article explores the criticisms of and justifications for the change or mistake rule in order to identify the understanding that supports its continued application. Specifically, this article argues that the change or mistake rule was intended as a mediator between two fundamental purposes of zoning - maintaining communities that have sufficient flexibility to implement a new community vision, while providing stability and certainty as a planning device.
Keywords: zoning, land use controls, land use planning, local government, Euclid, zoning amendment, change or mistake rule, rezone
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation