Ondoy: The Chickens Come Home to Roost in Manila

Clean up the trash.

Upgrade the sewage system.

Rationally apply Zones.

Don’t vote bozos into Congress.

This is an I TOLD YOU SO moment.

The Philippines has Urban Planning and each city has a Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) crafted. Coming up with a CDP is an involved process which entail a series of public hearings where the public provides its inputs to the CDP. In areas where the citizenry are uninvolved, the process practically institutionalizes the local elite’s dominance of the domestic market for goods and services. They can direct the development so that if they happen to have properties adjoining the area then there will be an appreciation of the value of the property.

However, the practice of “spot zoning” has rendered lots of CDPs inutile.

Wikipedia defines “Spot Zoning” as

“the application of zoning to a particular area within the jurisdiction of a government.

Such a change may have a legitimate use, such as when a community wishes to have more local control of land use. This may occur in a rural county which has no zoning at all, where a village or hamlet may wish to maintain its characteristic feel and historic appeal (often to protect tourism), without adding another layer of local government and taxes by creating a municipality. The county designates the boundaries (often that of an already census-designated place) and maintain regulations through the county commission instead of a separate town council.

It may also be invalid as an “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable treatment” of a limited parcel of land by a local zoning ordinance.[1] It is an invalid exercise of authority, if spot zoning is not a right conferred upon the body by the state’s zoning enabling statute, because it deviates from the plan set out by the enabling statute.[1]

The Planner’s Web website provides more details on spot zoning

Most planning commissioners have heard the impassioned cry that a particular rezoning decision will constitute an invalid “spot zoning.” This allegation typically arises where the community is considering the rezoning of a single lot or small parcel of property held by a single owner and the rezoning will permit land uses not available to the adjacent property.

Because spot zoning often focuses on the single parcel without considering the broader context, that is, the area and land uses surrounding the parcel, it is commonly considered the antithesis of planned zoning. While rezoning decisions that only affect a single parcel or small amount of land are most often the subject of spot zoning claims (as opposed to rezonings of larger areas), a locality can lawfully rezone a single parcel if its action is shown to be consistent with the community’s land use policies. As I will discuss shortly, courts look to the community’s comprehensive plan, or to other planning studies, in determining whether the rezoning is, in fact, consistent with local land use policies.

Of course, whether a particular rezoning constitutes an unlawful spot zoning depends largely upon the facts surrounding the zoning decision and upon the judicial decisions of each state. However, courts commonly note that the underlying question is whether the zoning decision advances the health, safety, and welfare of the community. A zoning decision that merely provides for individual benefit without a relationship to public benefit cannot be legally supported. Where a particular zoning decision is not supported by a public purpose, the zoning decision is arbitrary and may be subject to invalidation as unlawful spot zoning.

Although courts throughout the nation differ in their specific approaches when reviewing spot zoning claims, the majority consider:

  1. the size of the parcel subject to rezoning;
  2. the zoning both prior to and after the local government’s decision;
  3. the existing zoning and use of the adjacent properties;
  4. the benefits and detriments to the landowner, neighboring property owners, and the community resulting from the rezoning; and
  5. the relationship between the zoning change and the local government’s stated land use policies and objectives.

This last factor — the relationship of the rezoning decision to the community’s land use policies and objectives — is perhaps the most important one. As a result, when a planning commission (or governing body) initially considers a rezoning request it should determine whether the request is consistent with the comprehensive or master plan. Many communities’ zoning codes also require a separate planning study that examines the merits of the proposed rezoning. This further ensures that any rezoning is consistent with the community’s land use objectives, and not a case of spot zoning. The bottom line is that courts will give considerable weight to evidence that the locality’s rezoning decision reflects thoughtful consideration of planning factors.

It should be noted that there is one situation where a rezoning decision that does not conform to the comprehensive plan may nevertheless be upheld. That is where there is evidence showing significant changes in the community since the adoption of the plan that would justify a rezoning of the property. This is especially true where a review of other factors, such as benefit to the community and the size of the rezoned parcel, indicate that the rezoning was not merely intended to confer a benefit to the property owner.

source: http://www.plannersweb.com/articles/wid060.html, accessed 9/29/09

“Spot Zoning” is a lucrative business. Firms lobby legislators to pass the spot zoning ordinance. In the process, the bounty is distributed to all who vote in favor of the spot zoning legislation. This allows the likes of pig farms, coconut oil refineries, activated charcoal plants to operate within areas which are clearly zoned as residential.

If one were to review all the spot zoning ordinances, one will see the active players. Allegedly, the offer is made to the senior legislators, both the majority and minority floor leaders – and the leadership of the City Planning Office – all the way to the mayor/governor.

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