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Durand v. IDC Bellingham, LLC

    Brief Fact Summary. IDC wanted to build a power plant in a town, in an area zoned for other purposes. Then IDC offered a gift of $8 million if they would re-zone the area for industrial purposes.

     

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.  Zoning bylaws will only be overturned if they are arbitrary or unreasonable or substantially unrelated to the public health safety and general welfare of the citizens.

     

    Facts. The Town wanted to increase its property tax base. An economic development task force was appointed by the town’s board of selectman to study the issue. They issued a report stated the town needed to industrialize some of the town. They picked an area of town zoned for agricultural use that was next to an area zoned for industrial use as the place they should change. The first vote fell short. IDC owned a power plant in the town and wanted to build a second plant. To that end IDC offered $8 million dollars to the town if they rezoned that area. The $8 million was to be a gift to the town to use for any municipal purpose it seemed fit.  There was a new vote and by a majority vote the area was rezone for industrial purposes. A group from the town brought suit stating this was a contract zoning so the vote to rezone should be considered invalid.  

     

    Issue. Whether a town meeting vote to rezone an area of the town is invalid if the prospective owner (IDC) offered the town $8 million dollars if rezoning was approved and a power plant was built on the site.

     

    Held.  A zoning by law will not be held invalid unless there is a demonstration by preponderance of the evidence that the zoning regulation is arbitrary or unreasonable. Zoning bylaws enacted by town meetings is an exercise of independent police power and a legislative act which carries a strong presumption of validity. The motives for granting a zoning bylaw does not affect the analysis of whether a zoning bylaw is valid or not.  The reason for the presumption is that municipal zoning procedures are highly governed by statutes and the exercise of police power is very important to all municipalities. When someone offers money in exchange for the promise to vote for rezoning it’s considered contract zoning which is invalid. Here no promise was made contingent upon the money where the board promised to vote one way or the other. Also the judge determined that the rezoning was not arbitrary or unreasonable. A zoning bylaw will not be held invalid for of the extraneous consideration of gift offers, only if there was a promise made based on that gift or there was a constitutional violation.  

     

    Dissent.  

     

    Discussion. In general zoning bylaws are considered legislative acts. Such acts will not be held invalid for its motives. Unless a clear standard or rule is violated a zoning bylaw will be upheld.

     


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