Temporary Land Use Regulation (Moratorium)

NOTE:  This summary is very simplified, and is provided for informational purposes.  Any questions on this topic should be directed to The Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman.

What is a Temporary Land Use Regulation (or Moratorium)?

A temporary land use regulation (often called a “moratorium”) is a mechanism by which a zoning regulation is adopted for a limited period of time without having to go through the normal process of public hearings.

May a Local Government Enact Temporary Land Use Regulations?

Temporary zoning regulations, not to exceed six months, are authorized under the Land Use Development and Management Acts.   Utah Code  §§ 10-9a-504, and 17-27a-504.

Why Would a Temporary Land Use Regulation Be Adopted?

A temporary land use regulation may be adopted when there is an emergency situation or a compelling reason that requires immediate action. While the temporary regulation is in place, the local government has time to address the situation through the normal process to adopt zoning ordinances.

When May a Temporary Regulation be Adopted?

A temporary land use regulation may be adopted to address any one of these three situations:
a.  The local government finds that there is a compelling public interest that justifies the temporary regulation.
b.  There is an area that is unregulated by zoning ordinances.
c.  A proposed highway corridor is being studied for an Environmental Impact Statement or a Major Investment Study.

What is a Compelling Public Interest?

A compelling interest” relates to a substantial risk to the public’s health, safety, or welfare that should be addressed through a temporary regulation.

How is a Temporary Land Use Regulation Adopted?

The governing body of a local government may adopt a temporary land use ordinance.  The notice provisions normally applicable to zoning ordinances do not apply, and prior consideration by a planning commission is not required.

How Long May a Temporary Regulation Remain in Effect?

A temporary land use regulation may remain in effect for no more than six months (180 days).  The local government must establish the effective period when it adopts the regulation.

What Happens When the Effective Period Expires?

The temporary regulation expires at the end of the effective period.  If no permanent regulations or amendments have been adopted, the zoning ordinances that were in place when the temporary regulation was first enacted become effective again.

May the Effective Period Be Extended?

The Utah Code does not provide for an automatic extension of a temporary land use regulation. A temporary regulation prohibiting development in a proposed highway corridor may be extended for two additional six-month periods (for a total effective period of 18 months), but only if requested by the State’s Transportation Commission.

What Sort of Regulations May be Adopted?

A temporary land use regulation may adopt any type of zoning regulation, up to and including a prohibition of all development for a limited time.  A regulation may also temporarily prohibit certain types of land uses or development.

What Happens to Land Development Applications While a Temporary Regulation is in Effect?

A temporary land use regulation becomes the applicable zoning ordinance for the time in which it is effective.  Land use applications are subject to the restrictions or regulations imposed by a temporary ordinance.  For example, if an ordinance bans new development, no new applications may be accepted, and no applicant may gain vested rights in an application.

What Cannot Be Adopted as a Temporary Land Use Regulation?

A temporary zoning regulation cannot impose an impact fee or other financial requirement on land development.

What Must be Included in a Temporary Land Use Regulation?

A local government must identify the justification for the temporary regulation, the area it affects, and the effective dates for the regulation (not to exceed six months)

May a Local Government Permanently Prohibit Land Uses?

A local government may impose any zoning regulation if it is reasonably debatable that the regulation is in the public’s interest, and all notice and hearing requirements are met.  This includes the authority to prohibit some or even all new development.

Case on Temporary Land Use Regulation

Gardner v. Wasatch County