Neighborhoods here in Boston and the surrounding communities have plenty of quirky characteristics. This is due to roads seemingly built on centuries-old cow paths, but there is also a patchwork of other odd bits of building and neighborhood ephemera that go on to stand the test of time.
City planning boards generally try to have cohesive zoning regulations amidst the civil patchwork. However, a petitioner may have their own ideas of what belongs where. It can prompt a request to rezone the property. This action can lead unhappy neighboring property owners to claim that the application is for spot zoning, which is unlawful.
When there is a dispute over spot zoning, the planning board members must decide whether to allow or deny the petition. Often this will involve a new development in a neighborhood with old buildings or perhaps converting a commercial warehouse into residential lofts. Approval may mean a violation of zoning laws, while denial may mean that a community stagnates, thus losing an opportunity for a potential economic rebirth. With so much on the line, boards and commissions must tread carefully and clearly understand the zoning laws.
Weighing the options
Judges weigh a variety of specific and general factors when making a ruling. These include:
- The physical attributes of the land
- The size of the land plot and project
- The benefits that a change would provide to the greater community
- Whether the municipality has another more comprehensive plan in place for the area cited in the petition
Judges generally open to change
Most successful instances of a change in zoning involve a switch to mixed-use. A residential area may see a petition to put in a restaurant, bar, retail space, or office. These are generally regarded as positives if the businesses contribute to the community and maintain its’ character. Petitions for building or expanding commercial operations amidst mixed-use or residential areas are less likely to succeed. Those interested in real estate opportunities involving rezoning are advised to speak with an attorney about their issue’s specifics before making final decisions.