Are Townhomes Spot Zoning?

by Marcia C
(Barrington, il)

Visitor Question: There is a parcel of land, 3.3 acres on the western edge of our neighborhood. The neighborhood is all single family homes (R5). This 3.3 acre land is surrounded by single family homes to the north and south, a street with family homes on the east and a parking lot for a manufacturer on the west.

A developer wants to squeeze in 21 town houses with a horseshoe shaped street and its own development name. We don't want it.

This parcel of land is half zoned R5 and M1 (light manufacturing). We believe this is spot zoning.

Our neighborhood is united with this and we have had 2 plan commission meetings about this development where the developer spoke then our neighborhood spoke. We want single family homes consistent with the neighborhood. Does this sound like spot zoning to you? Thank you

Editors Comment: We think this does not especially sound like spot zoning. Keep in mind that our answer is based only on the information given in the question. There may well be other successful arguments against this particular rezoning!

Here is why we think you should use a different argument against the proposed development. In spot zoning, the rezoning for a proposed development or a speculative rezoning does not relate at all to the zoning it is adjacent to.

In this case, most planning and zoning professionals would say that the somewhat higher-density residential use is an ideal transitional land use between an industrial zoning category and a single-family residential category. Why those two zoning districts were allowed to abut one another in the first place is another question, but that is history now.

Given that you live on residentially zoned land and that the proposed rezoning is to another residential category, although a higher density, the proposal should be attacked on grounds other than spot zoning.

Also we would point out that if the land in question is not shown on the plat (legal map) for your subdivision, the property owners have no choice but to name their project something else. So that too is an irrelevant argument to bring up.

Now, what are some arguments that would make your neighborhood seem more knowledgeable, and therefore more credible? Without knowing many more facts, we would suggest that you and your neighbors think about these questions:

1. Is there any natural resource kind of reason to limit density? For instance, is there a wetland or endangered species on the parcel where rezoning is being requested? Is the land subject to flooding? What about flash flooding, possibly from inadequate on-site drainage at the manufacturing plant?

2. Are there any traffic situations that would be aggravated by this development? If so, you could use the argument that increasing the density is not appropriate and cite the specifics of the situation. Photos can be effective in this regard, and provide the emotional tug that would complement any traffic counts obtained from the city or state (whoever owns the road).

3. Are there any other infrastructure limits hindering your area? Infrastructure examples include streets and roads, drainage, utilities, school capacity, public service capacity. Is your city struggling to pay for roads and schools as it is?

4. Is there an equity argument? Have other subdivisions been treated better than yours when the city has been faced with a development similar to this?

5. Does the developer in question build tacky projects? If the development is not on a par with your homes in terms of general architectural character and quality, you could suggest that the townhomes would need to be of a higher quality to be acceptable to your neighborhood. Neighbors might be tempted to speak of lower incomes of new residents, but most city councils are immune to that, so avoid that type of comment.

6. What else is of concern to your city council right now? Play to their worries.

As you can see, we favor straightforward, truthful, and mostly rational arguments against rezonings that you oppose. We think using ineffective arguments just makes your neighborhood seem less prepared and less sympathetic. See also our page on re-zoning opposition though for some other ideas on possibly politically effective ways to tackle this problem. Also we have a spot zoning page. Good luck!

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