Spot zoning

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Spot zoning is the application of zoning to a specific parcel of land within a larger zoned area when the rezoning is usually at odds with a city's master plan and current zoning restrictions. The rezoning may be for the benefit of a particular owner, and at odds with pre-existing adjacent property owners. The Standard State Zoning Enabling Act states "all such regulations shall be uniform for each class or kind of building throughout each district."[1] Courts may rule certain instances of spot zoning as illegal.

Such a change may have a legitimate use, such as when a community wishes to have more local control of land use. This may occur in a rural county which has no zoning at all, where a village or hamlet may wish to maintain its characteristic feel and historic appeal (often to protect tourism), without adding another layer of local government and taxes by creating a municipality. The county designates the boundaries (often that of an already census-designated place) and maintain regulations through the county commission instead of a separate town council.

It may also be invalid as an "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable treatment" of a limited parcel of land by a local zoning ordinance.[2] It is an invalid exercise of authority, if spot zoning is not a right conferred upon the body by the state's zoning enabling statute, because it deviates from the plan set out by the enabling statute.[2]


Generally, zoning is a constitutional exercise of a state's police power[3] and so spot zoning would be a constitutional exercise of zoning power by a local zoning authority if the state zoning enabling law allows spot zoning.

Spot zoning may be an invalid exercise of a local authority's zoning power if the state zoning enabling law prohibits spot zoning. While zoning regulates the land use in whole districts spot zoning makes exceptions for parcel/s within a district.[4]

Situations where spot zoning may arise[edit]


A variance is the license to deviate from the land-use restrictions imposed by the zoning ordinance. A variance usually requires the landowner suffer a substantial hardship which only the granting of a variance may remedy. If a local zoning authority decides to grant a variance to a landowner who lacks substantial hardship, then its legality (regarding equal protection) may be called into question.

Special-use permit[edit]

A special-use permit occurs when a zoning regulations allows some specific exception to its regulations provided that a landowner receive a special-use permit from the local zoning authority. An example of a specific exception includes a church in a residential neighborhood. If the special-use permit deviates from zoning ordinance or the enabling statute, then an instance of spot zoning arises.

Amendment to ordinance[edit]

A local zoning authority like a city may seek to amend its zoning ordinance. If it amends it zoning ordinance but only for a parcel within a district and the parcel has a different land use characterization than the surrounding district, then an instance of spot zoning arises.

Contract zoning[edit]

Contract zoning occurs when a local zoning authority accommodates a private interest by rezoning a district or a parcel of land within that district. Then the private interest may then be allowed to develop the land where before the zoning regulations prohibited such a land use. This is spot zoning in all instances.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]