Zoning Estoppel–Expanded

What does “Estoppel” Mean?

“Estoppel” is a legal term that simply means “to stop.”  It is used in a variety of contexts to “estop” (or stop) an action when it would be unfair to allow the action to continue.  The purpose of Zoning Estoppel is to stop government agencies from taking actions affecting land use when it would be unfair or unjust to allow the action to continue.

What Is Zoning Estoppel?

“Zoning Estoppel” stops local government from changing a land development decision that a property owner has relied upon in good faith. If a government has taken a position that a property owner relies upon, the government should not change its position if it would be unfair to the owner.

What Types of Decisions Can Lead to Zoning Estoppel?

To qualify for a zoning estoppel, a local government’s decision or statement must be considered as “officially” representing the locality’s position on a land use question.  A comment or opinion by an employee is probably not enough to invoke estoppel, but an ordinance or policy adopted by a decision-making body definitely is.   In addition, general statements about possible land uses would not be sufficient to invoke zoning estoppel, but a decision about a particular parcel may be.


What Should a Property Owner Do?

The attorneys at the Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman can assist property owners facing this issue.  Zoning Estoppel is a very complicated subject, involving many legal nuances depending upon each specific situation.  Please contact us at (801) 530-6391.