According to a Wikipeda article on spot zoning
Spot zoning is the application of zoning to a specific parcel or parcels of land within a larger zoned area when the rezoning is usually at odds with a city's master plan and current zoning restrictions.
The small size of the parcel is not the sole defining characteristic of a spot zone. Rather, the defining characteristic is the narrowness and unjustified nature of the benefit to the particular property owner, to the detriment of a general land use plan or public goals. The rezoning may provide unjustified special treatment that benefits a particular owner, while undermining the pre-existing rights and uses of adjacent property owners.
The Philadelpha city solicitors office has offered a few opinions on what constitutes spot zoning.
In an opinion about Bill 960696 they concluded that it is very possible that a court might determine that the Bill constitutes spot zoning
The key question, as discussed in greater length at page 4 of the earlier opinion, is whether the Bill singles out one lot or a small area for different treatment from that accorded to similar surrounding land indistinguishable from it in character, for the economic benefit or detriment of the owner
The fact that the Site is a single parcel owned by one owner militates in favor of a determination of spot zoning (see page 8 of the August 21 opinion). The absence of any stated basis of the objective factors leading to the proposed change from the zoning classification established after much deliberation at the time of the 1986 remapping also militates in favor a determination of spot zoning.
In an opinion about Bill 970234 they concluded the bill based upon my consideration of all the facts and the applicable law, I believe that there is support for the conclusion that Bill No. 970234, if it became law, would constitute illegal "spot zoning," since it singles out property owned by a single owner for special treatment to his economic detriment.
it is my belief that there is support for the conclusion that the Bill, if it becomes law, would constitute illegal "spot zoning," since it singles out property owned by a single owner for special treatment to his economic detriment
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has defined "spot zoning" as "a singling out of one lot or a small area for different treatment from that accorded to similar surrounding land indistinguishable from it in character, for the economic benefit [or detriment] of the owner."
The size of the property is only one determining factor. The topography, location and characteristics of the land are also among the factors to be considered. The most important factor, however, is whether the rezoned land is being treated unjustifiably different from similar surrounding land, thereby creating an "island" having no relevant differences from its neighboring property. The Court must also consider the effect of rezoning on public health, safety, morals and general welfare; and the relationship of rezoning to the comprehensive plan.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has said: "If it is aimed at preventing a theretofore legal use of an integrated unit owned by one common interest, the action cannot be supported as a valid zoning."
So why is this spot zoning
- The surrounding area is zoned RSA-5 (twins and rows) and is developed as such.
- The property itself is zoned RSA-5
- The propery is owned by a single owner
- Councilman Jones is rezoning the property for the benifit of a single owner and a single developer
- The topography, location and characteristics of the land are no different than the surrounding RSA-5 areas. The parking lot is sloped but there are multiple examples of houses, built recently, on former industrial sites, cliffs, hillsides, carved out of rock, and propped up behind high retaining walls.
- Councilman Jones' ordinance singles out small area, with a single owner, for different treatment from that accorded to similar surrounding land indistinguishable from it in character, for the economic benefit of a single owner and a single developer
- Councilman Jones' ordinance provide unjustified special treatment that benefits a particular owner, while undermining the pre-existing rights and uses of adjacent property owners by over crowding the neighborhood and creating a clear division between the haves (parking) and the have-nots.
- Councilman Jones's has not offered any justification for the higher density.
- The Planning Commission appears to support the project as a form of Transit Oriented Development. However neither this project, Manayunk, nor other Planning Commission zoning decisions are consistent with Transit Oriented Development.
- Councilman Jones' project has 100 apartemnts with 138 parking spaces. Almost five times the parking density for a Transit Oriented Development.
- Transit Oriented Development is based on reduced car ownership and usage by living close to transit.
- Manayunk has a train station but does not have basic services to support lower car ownership. The most obvious are banking and grocery shopping, affordible clothing stores, hardware stores, a liqour store, beer distributor, or other basic services. The vast majority of residents have one or more cars just to meet basic needs.
- Manayunk is a popular for it's access to the expressway and jobs north and west. All car dependent.
- A defining characteristic of Manayunk is it's traffic and parking problems. This development contributes to worsening these problems
- Councilman Jones' ordinance and the Planning Commission's Draft Plan are in direct contradiction to the Philadelpha 2035 Lower Northwest District Plan adopted in 2014
Page 54: The area is expected to see an increase in net housing units, which may threaten the character and aesthetic of established single-family residential areas. Older homes in some areas are vulnerable to conversions or demolitions to make way for commercial uses and higher-density housing. Zoning can be used as a tool for preserving neighborhood character. Demand for further conversions of older homes can be reduced by targeting development toward commercial corridors, transit nodes, and obsolete industrial areas. Such targeted areas include Ridge Avenue, lower Main Street, Ivy Ridge, and the Wissahickon Gateway.
Page 54: Preserve the existing character and density of single-family neighborhoods by rezoning these areas to the correct zoning classifications and utilizing /NCO Neighborhood Conservation Overlays where appropriate (see Proposed Zoning, p. 76).
Page 54: Use zoning to incentivize the development of single-family, multifamily, mixed-income, and senior housing along commercial corridors, near public transit, in transitioning industrial areas, and on City-owned parcels (see Proposed Zoning, p. 76).
Page 77: Priority Recommendations: LNW 5 Preserve the existing character and density of single-family neighborhoods by rezoning these areas to more appropriate zoning classifications and utilizing /NCO Neighborhood Conservation Overlays where appropriate
Page 78: Proposed Land Use: Direct more intensive, mixed-use development along Ridge Avenue and lower Main Street, and around Ivy Ridge Station and Wissahickon Transportation Center
- While now advocating for higher density in Manayunk the Planning Commission has been rezoning areas of Wissahickon and Roxborough to less dense zoning even though they have as good or better access to transit and better access to basic services.