Contract and Conditional Zoning Without Romance: A Public Choice Analysis

March 1, 2013

The growth and development of the United States after World War II left the country needing more flexibility in zoning law. Over the past few decades, zoning has undergone drastic changes to make the process more flexible. Two methods used to meet this new demand are contract and conditional zoning. Jurisdictions are split on whether to permit contract zoning, conditional zoning, both, or neither. This is an important question that a growing number of jurisdictions have recently encountered. This Note seeks to propose potential solutions to the conflict by analyzing it through public choice theory. By applying the principles of public choice theory, this Note finds that increased flexibility in zoning will likely have the undesired consequence of allowing legislators to easily appease interest groups, rather than bargain for the most efficient land use allocation. From this observation, this Note ultimately concludes that jurisdictions should either prohibit both contract and conditional zoning or, if economic efficiency concerns prove too great, permit both contract and conditional zoning but apply a strict standard of judicial review.

March 2013

No. 4