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Zoning is a legislative act dividing a jurisdiction's land into sections and regulating different land uses in each section in accordance with a zoning ordinance.

Flexibility in Zoning:

A number of devices allow governing boards to include flexibility in their zoning:

  • Non-conforming use:  Allowing a pre-existing use to continue
  • Variance:  Allows the governing board to grant an exception
  • Spot Zoning:  Changing the zoning for a specific parcel of land, but not the surrounding parcels
  • Illegal Contract Zoning / Legal Conditional Use Zoning:  While a city may not change the zoning in exchange for a bilateral promise from a landowner, it may make a change if the landowner makes a unilateral promise.
  • Incentive Zoning: The governing board offers landowners a way to buy out of regulations at a pre-set price.

Illustrative caselaw:

See, e.g. Bragdon v. Town of Vassalboro, 780 A.2d 299 (Me. 2001).

See also: