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Spot zoning: What you should know

On Behalf of | May 26, 2021 | Blog, Zoning |

While this doesn’t happen often, city planning boards may have to deal with the request of a petitioner to rezone property. However, anyone who objects to the rezoning may claim that rezoning is actually an unlawful practice known as spot zoning. When this occurs, the planning board is faced with a challenge and the board members have to decide whether to approve or deny the development. An approval could mean the board is making an unlawful decision, and a denial would mean that the community doesn’t get to reap the financial benefits of the development. This is why it is essential for Massachusetts planning boards and commissions to have a clear understanding of spot zoning laws.

What is spot zoning?

The conventional meaning of spot zoning is the process of focusing on a small section of land to be used in a completely different fashion than the surrounding land for the sole benefit of the landowner and the disadvantage of nearby landowners. For this reason, spot zoning is considered the opposite of plan zoning.

When considering a request for spot zoning, judges will make their ruling based on whether the zoning is compatible with the way in which the other land in that area is being used. Judges also keep additional factors in mind, such as:

  • The size of the land plot
  • Physical attributes of the land
  • The benefit the land/zoning will provide for the public
  • Whether the disputed zoning is within the comprehensive plan for the municipality

Mixed-use areas and spot zoning

Improper spot zoning is not as likely when the area in question is for mixed-use. Spot zoning is much more common in residential areas than in commercial ones. If the spot zoning is deemed invalid, some judges will not rule and let due process take over to prove that the rezoning was not in the best interest of the state.

Learning about spot zoning in Massachusetts is essential if you’re considering purchasing property for a specific purpose. It’s best to contact a qualified law firm for assistance before you begin the zoning process in your municipality or township.

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