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Regulating Land Use The state may regulate land use by using the police power subject to the due process, equal protection and taking clauses. Zoning is the principal means of land-use regulation.


Under a state’s zoning enabling act, the zoning power is delegated to local governments who develop a comprehensive plan responsive to the community’s needs.

Local legislatures enact zoning ordinances.

Building departments enforce the ordinances.

A board of adjustment or board of zoning appeals is empowered to hear appeals of the building department’s actions.

a. However, the power to determine whether a proposed variance promotes the public welfare cannot be delegated without specified guidelines and standards intended to govern such decisions.

b. The board must expressly consider all relevant factors when adjudicating variances.

C. Cumulative Use Schemes

Most zoning ordinances establish a number of zoning categories and place each zoning district into one of those categories. The categories progress from most to least restrictive. The most restrictive category might allow only single homes. The next category may allow single home and apartment construction. Each successive category permits the activities from the more restrictive categories as well as additional uses, from commercial to heavy industrial. The modern trend is to reject cumulative use schemes on the grounds that the least restrictive districts result in an undesirable mixture of residential and industrial uses.

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