Spot Zoning: New Ideas for an Old Problem
48 The Urban Lawyer 737 (Fall 2016)
Washington University Law, Legal Studies Research Paper Series, PAPER NO. 17-02-02
49 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2017
Date Written: February 3, 2017
I describe spot zoning, an archaic and elusive concept, and compare it with conditional uses and hardship variances as a method for zoning change. Spot zoning is usually the only option but may create unfair wealth transfer, may suffer from political capture by developers or landowners, may be an unacceptable zoning strategy, and may use a legislative process that does not meet democratic values. Process problems include the standing to sue of objecting neighbors, whether the presumption of constitutionality applies, and the standard of judicial review courts should use. Courts use a multifactor test to consider the validity of spot zoning. Size of site and purpose are not useful as decision factors, and mitigating measures can resolve compatibility problems. Community-based policies in comprehensive plans are the preferred basis for changes in the zoning ordinance.
Keywords: Zoning, spot zoning, comprehensive plans, wealth transfer, political capture, standing to sue, judicial review, conditional use, variance, equal protection, taking of property, rent control, Growth Machine theory, Homevoter theory, ward courtesy, zoning process, quasi-judicial, presumption of consti
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