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What Legal Liabilities Come with Planning and Zoning?

Zoning officials, as well as members of a planning commission, board of zoning appeals or board of architectural review, are subject to legal liability while performing their responsibilities, but only in some circumstances.

Tort claims
Zoning officials as well as commission and board members are covered by the SC Tort Claims Act, which provides immunity while they are acting within the scope of official duty. The law creates an exception for individual liability, however, if the official actions are proven to constitute "actual fraud, actual malice, intent to harm, or a crime involving moral turpitude."

Similarly, the governing body and its boards and commissions do not have liability for such actions as adopting comprehensive plans, zoning ordinances or land development regulations, or when hearing appeals. However, if negligence caused a loss for someone, then that person can file a claim against the government body, and these claims may be covered by liability insurance.

Civil rights
Generally, government officials and employees have immunity from monetary liability when acting within their discretion and not violating federal rights. However, planning and zoning actions that violate federal equal protection and due process can result in claims against the responsible individual and government.

Learn more about planning and zoning enforcement in the Municipal Association's Comprehensive Planning Guide for Local Governments.