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City of Pharr v. Tippitt – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In City of Pharr v. Tippitt, 616 S.W.2d 173 (Tex. 1981), the Texas Supreme Court observed that the term "spot zoning" is used in Texas "to connote an unacceptable amendatory ordinance that singles out a small tract for treatment that differs from that accorded similar surrounding land without proof of changes in conditions." 616 S.W.2d at 177.

"Spot zoning is regarded as a preferential treatment which defeats a preestablished comprehensive plan. It is piecemeal zoning, the antithesis of planned zoning." Id.

The Court noted certain criteria against which zoning ordinances should be reviewed.

First, the approved zoning plan should be respected and not altered for the special benefit of the landowner when the change will cause substantial detriment to the surrounding lands or serve no substantial public purpose. Tippitt, 616 S.W.2d at 176.

Second, the nature and degree of an adverse impact upon neighboring lands is important. Tippitt, 616 S.W.2d at 177.

Lots that are rezoned in a way that is substantially inconsistent with the zoning of the surrounding area, whether more or less restrictive, are likely to be invalid. Id.

Third, the suitability or unsuitability of the tract for use as presently zoned must be considered. Id. The size, shape and location of a lot may render a tract unusable or even confiscatory as zoned. This factor, like the others, must often be weighed in relation to the other standards, and instances can exist in which the use for which land is zoned may be rezoned upon proof of a real public need or substantially changed conditions in the neighborhood. Id.

Fourth, the amendatory ordinance must bear a substantial relationship to the public health, safety, morals or general welfare or protect and preserve historical and cultural places and areas. Id.

The rezoning ordinance may be justified, however, if a substantial public need exists, and this is so even if the private owner of the tract will also benefit. Id.