Spot zoning is the name given to the piecemeal rezoning of small parcels of land to a greater density, leading to disharmony with the surrounding area and giving preferential treatment to one parcel at the expense of the zoning scheme as a whole. In characterizing the elements of spot zoning, a spot zoning challenge typically involves the examination of the following: (1) the size of the spot; (2) the compatibility with the surrounding area; (3) the benefit to the owner and (4) the detriment to the immediate neighborhood.
Petitioner homeowners sought a writ of certiorari to the lower court regarding the lower court's affirmance of a zoning decision made by respondent board of county commissioners. Respondents rezoned a tiny tract of land from agricultural use to business use so that the owner of the land could operate a feed store. Petitioners filed suit to protest the specific use oriented zoning. The lower court found the rezoning permissible. The reviewing court found ample evidence that respondents' decision did not comply with established zoning law, and found that the lower court committed a miscarriage of justice in affirming respondents' decision. The court, therefore, quashed the decision and remanded for further proceedings.
Is spot zoning permissible?
Under a strict scrutiny standard for quasi-judicial review of rezoning orders, it is necessary to determine whether the requested rezoning is consistent with the comprehensive development master plan and complies with all the procedural requirements of the zoning ordinance. In this case, the Dade County Commission rezoned a tiny 0.23 acre tract of land from AU (Agricultural Use) to BU-3 (Business Use-3) solely and admittedly so the owner could operate a feed store, which was forbidden in an AU zone, but permitted in BU-3. No other BU zoning was anywhere nearby. This zoning change would have had the effect of changing the AU zoning character of the entire neighborhood and would have hurt the rest of the residents and the essential nature of the two square mile area, but the only benefit that would have arisen from this change would have inured solely to the owner. Therefore the court held that the rezoning of the disputed area did not comply with established zoning law. The decision of the lower court was quashed and remanded for further proceedings.