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Thread: How do rural jurisdictions deal with spot zoning?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    How do rural jurisdictions deal with spot zoning?

    Had a case come to the planning board last night. 2.28 acre tract surrounded completely by residential seeking to rezone to industrial. I'm no lawyer, but I have a hard time believing it would stand up to spot zoning review at an appellate level.

    It should be noted that I am in North Carolina where spot zoning is not illegal per se, it's one of those things where the court ultimately decides, but the case law is fairly clear on what to look for.

    Thing is, if we do not at least take the chance at things like this, we will have absolutely no way to grow economically. How do smaller rural communities justify a spot zoning? Commercial for us is no real issue as the list of permitted uses in that district is low, and all permitted uses are in keeping with a residential area...it's the industrial that gets us. I would hate to handicap any sort of development like this in a very rural and economically depressed county. Of course the board would remain mindful of existing residential development.

    Thanks for any help.

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    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    When I look at my county everything (for the most part) is zoned agriculture. There are a couple residential subdivisions, the rest might be called spot zoning, but I don't look at it that way. If everything is AG, how do I get a commercial corner for a gas station along the freeway. I need to have the occasional industrial zone to throw in a junk yard or one of the many grain mills. In cases like this I usually have a specific project to bring with it and I let the commissioners vote and look at the project along with the zoning. If there is no project, I don't need to rezone. I also consider spot zoning out here more like zoning my barn commercial (happened once).
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

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    Cyburbian jwhitty's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by AG74683 View post
    How do smaller rural communities justify a spot zoning?
    They look the other way.

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    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jwhitty View post
    They look the other way.
    I so wanted to say that, but refrained. It is too true.
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    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    Come on people, we do in depth analysis of the zoning to determine that it would have no affect on the corn field next to the property. At least that's what I do. Actually I have some matrix thing I have to fill in to say it's not taking up farmland.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    It's really only spot zoning when it is in conflict with the general plan land use plan. The general plan land use designation for the area should be modified or the land use description should be broadened to define the possibility of corner commercial, or minimal industrial users w/ certain context and operational characteristics.

    Your specific state enabling legislation might have more direction on how much latitude you have before it is a spot zoning issue.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian jwhitty's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dvdneal View post
    Come on people, we do in depth analysis of the zoning to determine that it would have no affect on the corn field next to the property. At least that's what I do. Actually I have some matrix thing I have to fill in to say it's not taking up farmland.
    Most rural jurisdictions are lucky to have any kind of factual analysis being taken into account by the planning commission and governing body. The very nature of a jurisdiction being rural limits who will be evaluating planning proposals and how the staff report is compiled. It is important to not underestimate networks of institutional power.

    On the subject of AG zoning, I always contend that the practice of agriculture is akin to industry. You have the noxious smells, the loud noises of engines, poison and heavy chemical storage and application, fine particulate being sprayed into the air, heavy water usage, and the heavy truck traffic. Why then do we allow residential housing to be built right next to these uses? Like literally on the same parcel!

    The boiled down response that I get is usually along the lines of, "AG is just a holding zone." It is just the waiting for development zone, and I think that mindset goes into the decision to re-purpose agricultural lands, regardless of what the future land use plans say. What if the neighbor complains about their next door neighbor's up-zone? You can just remind them that the up-zone increased every property's worth, enabling increased financing opportunity future farm operations, and better subdivision payouts for retirement! If they don't like that there are always political scapegoats and time.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Update to this. The advisory board voted to recommend approval, the governing board voted to deny the request.

    PB Chair is apparently upset that I did not mention spot zoning or anything of that nature to them in any way, no mention of it on staff reports, etc. As I have told him time and time again, the court determines spot zoning in North Carolina, and I was hesitant to speculate on something that could really go either way. In this situation, would you have mentioned the possibility of a spot zoning challenge in the staff report? I did speak on our 5 established policy guidelines (4 of the 5 could not be met by the proposal).

    That said, I think we are going to look at moving towards establishing a conditional zoning district, and eliminating any permitted uses in our ind. district.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I'll mention spot zoning if I think it applies, but Kansas may have different requirements. They do put some points to staff opinion in court cases. I should also say I'm very liberal about spot zoning. It's all AG zoning and if you need some land for industry or a gas station I'm okay with that. If you just want to rezone a 50x100 foot spot of your land, that's spot zoning to me. Also, AG zoning is not a holding pattern for the county. It is for the city, but we consider soil suitability to farming as a point against rezoning.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I would probably mention it as a potential issue. It is something the board should consider.
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