Spot Zoning for Rendering Plant

Visitor Question: Application for a rendering plant requires a re zone to heavy industrial of the proposed site. Miles of surrounding property is zone agriculture use. Little heavy industrial zoning exists in the county. If re zoned, could this face a spot zone challenge?

Editors Reply: A rendering plant processes animal waste from dead animals, some of which may have been diseased. Indeed the process of boiling own animal carcasses is heavy industry.

Theory would say that yes, there is some possibility of a legal challenge to a rezoning where only the one parcel of land destined to be a rendering plant is included in the rezoning.

However, no one wants to live next to a rendering plant, and almost no other conceivable industry that is prevalent today would want to locate beside such a plant.

This leads us to conclude that isolating a rendering plant within otherwise agricultural land may not be an irrational thing for a local government to try to do.

In this instance, it is very important that the opinions of the surrounding land owners be taken into account fully. These neighbors would be the people who would have standing to bring a lawsuit that would include spot zoning as part of their case.

If adjacent owners are adamantly opposed, it is certainly advisable to attempt to find a satisfactory means of addressing their concerns. It is possible that the rendering plant could resolve neighbor objections; agricultural families and proprietors are much less likely to be squeamish about the realities of animal life and death than their urban counterparts.

On the other hand, if the neighbors can build a good relationship with the owners of the plant and are not objecting to the rezoning, the local government should not be afraid to do the necessary rezoning. Just make sure that the neighboring property owners are "on the record" of saying in the zoning hearing or through letters that they are not opposed.

We can hardly believe that we are giving this advice, as we generally are not in favor of spot zoning and would like to see all zoning districts apply to more than one property.

However, there are some times when practicality and common sense must rule. This seems to us to be such a time when the input of an industrial process--animal waste and carcasses--is close at hand in the midst of agricultural land. The output of the process, whether that is glue, animal feed, or other product, is relatively compact, which also makes the process suitable for a rural area that would not withstand major truck traffic out of the plant site.

This brings us to the fact that your major caution should be the adequacy of the transportation network to handle traffic both into and out of the plant. Make sure this factor is taken into account before the rezoning is granted; if existing roads are inadequate and the public finance to widen or improve roads does not exist, that can be a valid reason to deny rezoning in and of itself.

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