Spot Zoning Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Spot Zoning, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Spot Zoning?

(n) Spot zoning is the provision by which a spot or a small portion of the area within an zone established for any specific category is permitted as a different zone than the category in which it surrounds. For example permitting a small portion of a residential zone as a commercial zone.

History and Meaning of Spot Zoning

Spot zoning is a legal concept that permits a small part of a larger area to have a different zoning classification than its surroundings. The property owner or the government can request the spot zoning provision. The zoning laws help regulate land use by specifying what types of buildings can be constructed, what purposes buildings can serve, and other factors that affect the use of a particular piece of land. The concept has its roots in the early 20th century when local governments started to regulate land uses more strictly to ensure that development did not conflict with existing land use patterns.

Examples of Spot Zoning

  1. In a mainly residential area of a city, the council authorizes a single block to have a zoning designation that allows for commercial, office, or retail property to be built.

  2. A city council initiates zoning changes and approves a new zoning map. A landowner petitions for one small property to be reassigned as a different zone, separate from its neighboring properties.

  3. An industrial business that is zoned commercial acquires an adjacent lot zoned residential. The industrial owner then rezones the residential property to industrial, and this would be an example of spot zoning.

Legal Terms Similar to Spot Zoning

  1. Variance: This term refers to a request for an exemption from a zoning law to provide the property owner relief from the zoning regulations' requirements. A variance can be granted if a hardship exists and is unique to the property.

  2. Non-conforming use: A legal term that refers to a property's previous lawful use that does not comply with the zoning codes' latest updates.

  3. Conditional Use Permit: This legal concept permits land uses not otherwise allowed by zoning laws for special situations, such as allowing a hospital to operate in a residential area.