Local governments have begun issuing zoning ordinances which restrict the rate of growth in certain areas.  These growth control ordinances are issued under the local governments’ general policing power and must comply with the requirements of zoning.  The purpose of growth control zoning ordinances is to prevent uncontrolled sprawl which would result in increased traffic, noise, pollution, demand for parking, and other associated problems.  

Are Growth Control Ordinances Legal?

The courts have generally upheld growth control ordinances because their goals of limiting sprawl and the problems associated with it are rationally related to the local government’s authority to ensure public health, safety, and welfare.  

However, these ordinances must be aimed at controlling the timing of development, not at the prevention of development.  Local governments must clearly show that the community could not adequately provide the fundamental and essential services and facilities necessary to accommodate a substantial increase in population.  Additionally, the growth control ordinance must be part of a comprehensive plan which seeks to ensure the normal and controlled growth of the community.

Additionally, the local government must be able to show that the growth control ordinance is reasonable.  Some factors that will be used in determining the reasonableness of a zoning ordinance aimed at growth control include:

  • The cost of extending necessary services and facilities to an increased population
  • The existing community’s ability to adjust to the higher tax burden necessary to extend services and facilities
  • Resource availability
  • The probable use of existing dwellings
  • The availability and suitability of undeveloped land in the surrounding areas
  • The overall growth of the region in which the community exists

Some courts have upheld preservation of a community’s rural character as legitimate grounds for a growth control ordinance.  

Growth control ordinances which are based on extensive studies and are part of carefully developed plans are more likely to be upheld, as are ones that tend to be temporary in nature.

Can a Lawyer Help Me With My Growth Control Ordinance Problem?

A property attorney can advise you on how a growth control ordinance may affect you as a current or future landowner or developer.  Your attorney will also be able to help you determine if you can successfully challenge a new or pending zoning ordinance.