Should Towns Be Able To Block Fast Food Joints From Opening?

Last week, we brought you the story of an Illinois town that rejiggered its zoning regulations to keep an upscale tattoo parlor from opening. This drew several jeers from readers for the village council that made the decision. And yet, there are several municipalities around the country that have effectively banned fast food and chain restaurants from opening within town limits, and there’s barely a peep from dissenters.

There are currently at least a dozen municipalities — including seven in California alone — that have zoning laws on the books that prohibit or strongly regulate so-called “formula restaurants.” Most of the towns have not faced legal challenges on these regulations, but that could change with a lawsuit recently filed in Utah.

Investors who has hoped to open a Subway in scenic Springdale, Utah — one of Forbes’ 20 Prettiest Towns — have filed suit against the town, its officials and lawyers, claiming the 4-year-old regulation won’t hold up in court.

“We knew of the ordinance by the time we contracted with Subway, but my clients looked into it and absolutely believed that ordinance was unconstitutional,” said the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the suit.

The decision in this case could have far-reaching implications for towns that have been using zoning regulations to ward off fast food franchises. For example, there’s Sister Bay, Wisconsin, which recently issued a fast food restaurant ban after seeing a developer’s plans to open a Subway.

We don’t imagine the lawsuit will be resolved anytime today, so we’re asking you to play judge, jury and executioner in our scientifically unscientific poll:

Towns block chain restaurants to save charm [USA Today]