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Deciphering Zoning Regulations: Lessons from Turner v. Bexley Board of Zoning & Planning

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2024 | Real Estate

In the complex landscape of real estate development, navigating zoning regulations is a critical step in ensuring the viability and success for a project. Every jurisdiction has its own set of ordinances and codes, presenting unique challenges for developers and property owners. A recent case in Ohio, Turner v. Bexley Board of Zoning & Planning, sheds light on the intricacies of zoning laws and their implications on real estate projects. Let’s delve into the details of this case and draw valuable insights for stakeholders in the real estate industry.

Understanding the Case:

In Turner v. Bexley Board of Zoning & Planning, the City of Bexley and the Bexley Board of Zoning & Planning appealed the judgments of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas that was entered following the project working its way through the City of Bexley and the BZAP. The case revolved around a decision to grant conditional use approval to The Community Builders, Inc. for the construction of a three-story apartment building in an area zoned as the Commercial Service District in Bexley, Ohio.

Key Legal Issues:

The crux of the legal dispute involves interpreting the City of Bexley’s zoning code. The code delineated permitted and conditional uses for different zoning districts. While multifamily housing was not listed as a permitted use in the Commercial Service District, the code allowed for conditional use permits for certain uses.

Court’s Ruling and Implications:

The appellate court ruled against the City of Bexley and the BZAP, determining that multifamily dwellings were prohibited in the Commercial Service District. This decision highlighted the importance of adhering to the clear language of zoning ordinances. The court emphasized that if a use is not explicitly permitted or conditionally allowed, it is prohibited.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Approval.  The case highlights the need to get with the local zoning departments early in the project, sometimes even before the property is purchased.
  2. Clarity in Zoning Regulations: Zoning ordinances must be clear and unambiguous to avoid legal disputes. Developers and property owners should meticulously review zoning codes to ensure compliance with regulations.
  3. Interpretation of Ordinances: Courts interpret zoning ordinances like statutes, aiming to discern the intent of the enacting body. Every word and phrase in the ordinance holds significance, and courts strive to give effect to each provision.
  4. Importance of Legislative Action: While litigation may resolve immediate disputes, long-term solutions often require legislative action. Municipalities have the power to amend zoning codes to address evolving needs, such as promoting affordable housing.


Turner v. Bexley Board of Zoning & Planning underscores the complexity of zoning laws and the critical role they play in shaping real estate development. By understanding the nuances of zoning regulations and adhering to legal requirements, stakeholders can navigate the intricate terrain of real estate projects. As the legal landscape evolves, proactive engagement with zoning authorities and legislative bodies remains paramount for sustainable development practices in the real estate industry.