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Thread: Spot zoning?

  1. #1
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    Spot zoning?

    My question pertains to whether or not this situation constitutes as spot zoning. From what I hear, spot zoning is a no-no. A local developer wants to expand his commercial use into single-family residential (RM24 to CS (I’m not sure what these mean)). There will also be an overlay zone that will allow mixed uses. The proposed rezoning would be about a quarter of a block big and contain on big box commercial unit. It would be sandwiched between the single-family residential area and industrial uses.
    On a side note, a neighborhood association representing the residents is negotiating an agreement that would allow this rezoning under the condition that the adjacent area (partly owned by the developer and partly owned by a annoying bus company) be rezoned to include row houses, affordable units, and a pocket park. This, I think would be contract zoning which I also hear is also a no-no in most states. I live in Kansas and am not sure if that rule applies here.
    Anyway, someone for the neighborhood organization asked me to help out, but I’m still a student and new to the profession. Anyone with any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
         
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    If he wants to "expand" his commercial use, is there already commercial zoning there? Or does he have a nonconforming use now? Is he in the industrial district? Generally speaking, it's spot zoning if the new zone is isolated to one parcel for the benefit of one owner... if there is either commercial or in some cases (depending on the uses permitted in the district) industrial abutting the parcel proposed for the change, it would not be considered spot zoning. And for the record, while spot zoning is a "no-no", it does happen, once in a rare while for good reason. It can easily be thrown out in a court, if anyone takes it there.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Well, I just looked at the Lawrence, Kansas website, and there is no CS district. There is, however, a C5... was that what you meant? I suggest you contact the Planning Office and ask about the proposed zoning case and get some more details.

    Having a transition between industrial uses and residential with some commercial doesn't sound like a terrible thing to me. Of course, I know nothing about Lawrence, so I'm just talking in generalities here.

    I've worked in municipalities that have done some contract zoning (Washington State). It was a pain in the rear to administer, but the development that resulted was actually quite good. I don't really see it as all that different than the Planned Developments that occur all over N. America (and in Alberta all of the Direct Control zones you see bulking up the land use bylaws). Are they abused? Sometimes. But do they provide tools to do really unique, context sensitive developments? Sometimes. As a citizen, you can help determine which way this one goes. I just hope that you take a proactive approach by providing alternatives that you would prefer or give suggestions regarding mitigating some of your concerns instead of just saying what you don't want.

    If you get more details, feel free to post here again. I know there are a few KS planners on the forums, so perhaps they can lend a hand regarding the regulations around contract zoning in KS.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally posted by spencerplanner
    ...considered spot zoning. And for the record, while spot zoning is a "no-no", it does happen, once in a rare while for good reason. It can easily be thrown out in a court, if anyone takes it there.
    Thanks for the clarification. I believe the proposal is adjacent to a parcel that is already zoned for commercial use. The area is in an older built up environment and is speckled with different uses. The city wants to preserve this character of the area.

    Quote Originally posted by nerudite
    Having a transition between industrial uses and residential with some commercial doesn't sound like a terrible thing to me.
    The utilization of commercial use as a buffer between the industrial seems logical. But from what I gather, the neighborhood association worries that the development will harm their property values. Traffic and parking are a couple nuisance issues that they bring forward. Many also complain about the bus company who is the other property owner involved the proposal. The neighborhood sees it as an opportunity to do away with the bus yard. The property owner says he doesn't want to sell so I don't see how the agreement can go through with the residents gaining anything. More information is definitely needed and I will speak with the planning office on more details.

    Quote Originally posted by nerudite
    As a citizen, you can help determine which way this one goes. I just hope that you take a proactive approach by providing alternatives that you would prefer or give suggestions regarding mitigating some of your concerns instead of just saying what you don't want.
    Sounds like solid advise. Thanks.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    It doesn't sound like the expansion of a commercial zone would necessarily be spot zoning but the definition as defined by the courts varies from state to state. Same with contract zoning which is illegal in my part of the world but might be OK in Kansas. If neighbors are concerned they should consult with a land use attorney.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop
    but the definition as defined by the courts varies from state to state.
    I agree, check the state statutes. The state statute should provide enough info o nwhat qualifies as a spot zoning or not. In my neck of the woods, there is nothing illegal about spot zoning. Your situation doesn't sound like a spot zoning to me. If there is adjacent property that has the same zoning designation as what is being proposed, I don't necessarily consider it a spot zoning.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Check the general, comperehensive or master plan for this area. It is typically not considered "spot-zoning" if the plan calls for the use and the property is rezoned to implement the plan.

  8. #8
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Like everyone else, check your state laws.

    This is the best description I've ever found for Spot Zoning (from Peter J. Laughlin's Land Use Planning & Zoning, NH Municipal Practice Series, 1992):

    "The antithesis of zoning by district is spot zoning. This is a term used by the courts to describe a zoning amendment which is invalid because it is not in accordance with a master plan. It is the singling out of a small parcel of land for a use classification totally different from that of the surrounding area, for the benefit of the owner of such property and to the detriment of others."

    See HERE for the full text of this section.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  9. #9
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    I equate the definition of “spot zoning” with “pornography.”
    I can’t tell you in precise terms what it is, but I know it when I see it.
    I think that one of the great signs of security is the ability to just walk away.

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