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Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)

Original Author: Ashburn, Melissa
Date of Material: 03/04/2003

Zoning--Laws and regulations--Tennessee
Zoning--Laws and regulations

Rezoning and Spot Zoning Question

Reviewed Date: 04/28/2021
MTAS was asked whether rezoning a parcel currently zoned residential, to allow commercial use, would constitute spot-zoning.

March 4, 2003

Re: Rezoning question

Dear Sir,

At the request of Senior Legal Consultant Sid Hemsley, I have conducted research on the issue of the potential rezoning of a parcel of property located at the corner of Avenue “A” and “B” Street in your city. It is my understanding that the property is currently zoned “R-3" for high density residential, and the owner has requested rezoning to “C-3" for neighborhood business.

The most recent case to address spot zoning in Tennessee is Crockett v. Rutherford County, 2002 WL 1677725 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 25, 2002). Although this is an unreported case, it contains a very good analysis of spot zoning. The Court of Appeals determined that the rezoning to allow an owner to erect a radio broadcasting tower was improper, after finding all elements of spot zoning to exist:

The subject tract of property was surrounded by other areas zoned residential, containing hundreds of acres;
The rezoning of the property allowed the owner to construct a tower on 3 acres of land, which opportunity is denied to surrounding property owners;
The evidence established arbitrariness and capriciousness by the commissioners; and
There was evidence the surrounding property owners suffered economic harm from the proposed tower, with no evidence of any public benefit.

The elements and concerns addressed by the Court of Appeals in the Crockett case do not appear to exist in the current rezoning issue in your city. I visited the site on February 20, and drove up and down Avenue “A” to observe the character of the area. Although portions of Avenue “A” are exclusively residential, this portion of Avenue “A” which is subject to rezoning is not. The structures which exist on the lot, or on the adjacent lot, appear to be uninhabitable houses, and all houses on this block are in an advanced state of disrepair. Across the street is a pasture with horses, next door to a market & deli. Across Avenue “A” from the market, on the same side of the street as the subject lot, is the city garage, which is surrounded by a chain link fence and there are piles of piping stacked by the fence bordering the roadway. Continuing down Avenue “A,” I encountered a garden center and landscaping service, and two businesses that appear to be industrial.

Based on my observation of the area surrounding the lot which is proposed for rezoning, in my opinion there is no legal reason to deny the application, and to do so will not constitute impermissible spot zoning. This area is not exclusively residential, and in fact has a mixture of commercial and industrial uses. I cannot imagine that neighboring landowners will suffer any decline in property value, as any use of the parcel would be an improvement. I accordingly recommend that the application for rezoning be approved.

I hope this information is helpful. Please feel free to call me if you have any questions or need further assistance.

Thank you for consulting with MTAS.


Melissa A. Ashburn
Legal Consultant

Main Document(s):
file Rezoning Question public.doc