# Sentential Logic Question: Got to show diff. b/w OR & AND for writing ordinance

Okay. They are working on a highway corridor amendment to the zoning ordinance. They want it to include all properties w/ frontage on the road, or w/in 500’ of the road. So they write: “…shall apply to all lands with frontage along and within 500 feet of…” Let’s call these conditions A & B, respectively. This is telling me that

A and B => ordinance applies.

But this means that if one doesn’t have frontage, but is within 500’, the ordinance doesn’t apply. This is contrary to the intent of the authors, since they want property w/in 500’ to be regulated.

Is there a formal way to demonstrate the difference between these? Basically, at the very least, is there a way to show a proof and say, “Figures don’t lie!”

Also, what is a good informal way to make this understood. I’m running into this a lot w/ the ordinance, including applications of DeMorgan’s thm [¬(A & B) = (¬A or ¬B)] for example, and I need good strategies for understanding, explaining, and arguing the effects of the ordinance language. E.g., here is a bit of recent email exchange that took place:

Ugh. So, more broadly speaking, are there any good sources for me to access to make these types of issues easier for me to understand? Easier to explain? And also any quick references for me to utilize when I’m unsure?

The AND vs. OR thing I opened with still applies, and I’ll need to get this clear in the next couple of days. However, don’t feel shy about helping me w/ the more general issues I mentioned.

Thanks much!!

"Shall apply to:

a) all lands with frontage, and;
b) all lands within 500 feet"

seems to solve the problem quite nicely.

This answer may be incorrect, however, based on how courts in the appropriate jurisdiction construe or have construed statutory construction. There may be case law which affects how the ordinance should or must be worded, so it’s not purely a logic problem. IANAL etc.

I’d go with “with frontage along and/or within 500 feet of…”

As Otto wrote, there may be some legal precedents which define the language in ways a dictionary doesn’t. But generally, I’d say you’re right that the “and” will cause the letter of the law not to agree with its intended spirit. If you want an example to use, point out that a person with a gun and bullets is capable of shooting someone, but a person with a gun or bullets is not.

Why do you need both clauses in this instance? Can’t you just say within 500 feet? Doesn’t that necessarily include frontage property?

I think Random has hit the nail on the head, but for the sake of argument, let’s try to come up with four different properties:

1. A and B - A lot, smaller than 500 feet deep, which has frontage on the road in question. Lot Number One satisfies both conditions.
2. A but not B - A lot which has frontage on the road, but which is not within 500 feet of the road because it is adjacent to several drainage ditches and a very large shoulder. This lot is difficult to envision and would hinge on the specific local definitions of “property” and “frontage” (perhaps one of those definitions covers which way the building faces?). Lot Number Two satisfies only the first condition.
3. not A but B - A lot which is within 500 feet of the road but which does not have frontage on said road. The lot behind Lot Number One could satisfy this; Lot Number Three also satisfies only one condition.
4. not A nor B - My house, in some totally other state. Lot Number Four is cozy, and has a view of the ocean. I am not worried about your petty zoning problems here.

What you need to do is draw diagrams of these four lots (or at least the first and third possibilities) and ask the zoning board what their intent is; if it is an inclusive or then they should simply rephrase to say “or”. If either condition holds, then both hold, and the consequence is invoked.

If they truly mean AND then you might argue that they don’t need the frontage clause unless they can show a property (like property #2) in the affected area which they intend to apply the consequence to, but which would not be covered by an inclusive OR.

If a corner lot has a depth of less than 500’ away from the main road (for which the “corridor” is being written), then the property next to it will be within the 500’. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure the authors have been thinking this through.

I would be more inclined to keep the frontage and drop the 500’. But I don’t know why. I had a good reason when I was writing the question, which the margin was too small to contain.

Still, that leaves me with similar situations occuring, so knowing how to figure that crap out would be valuable.

Classic.

After giving this some more thought, I’m going to take back part of my earlier suggestion (and then sort of repeat it, but for different reasons).

My rethinking began with the second example in Jurph’s excellent analysis. That layout (road with frontage but not within 500 feet because of interving shoulder/drainage area/whatever) is possible, but the ordinance could easily avoid this problem (as Jurph suggests) with appropriate definitions.

There’s a related issue, though. Let’s say there’s a very large unsubdivided tract with frontage more than 500 feet deep. With my original suggestion, it’s clear that the ordinance would apply to the portion of the tract within 500 feet of the right of way, but does it apply to the remainder? Does the municipality even want it to apply that far back? Even if it does, would it be enforceable?

The OP doesn’t say exactly what this ordinance is designed to regulate, but for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s a limitation on billboards. Such ordinances have been upheld, even in the face of the First Amendment, because of a legitimate govenmental interest in traffic safety. (Billboards can be distracting and interfere with driver sight lines.)

So we have an ordinance regulating billboards within 500 feet of the roadway. Can our hypothetical property owner build one 501 feet back on his road - fronting tract? Assuming the municipality wants the answer to be “no”, my originally-proposed language won’t work. (At the very least, there’d be an ambiguity.)

However, if the sole stated reason for the ordinance is traffic safety on the road at issue, I question whether such an ordinance would be constitutional, on the grounds that it is arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable. What rational basis could there be for prohibiting one landowner’s sign 510 feet back, but allowing that of the neighbor the same exact distance away (because no part of that lot is within 500 feet or has frontage)? So we’re back to just prohibiting signs (or whatever) within 500 feet, regardless of whether there’s frontage.

I’m having a hard time coming up with very many reasonable restrictions that apply to land 500 feet away from the road [the reason for the prohibition] just because part of the tract touches the road.

That is different from the question I am asking. But it is a good one that they are going to have to deal with. (In fact, the phone call I got today that prompted me to look at this proposed ordinance amendment and realize that I need to get better at sentential logic [I guess] had to do with that very question. Perhaps local government is your true calling. Bwahahaha!) That is something that will need to be adressed since the economic superpower of the township (at least, I think they are) is in that very situation. According to the planner I spoke to, the problem is not with the legality of regulating a property even though 99% of it is outside of this overlay district, rather it is making the language precise so that your question doesn’t come up.

FTR, states can give townships the authority to enact zoning law. I’m sure there are myriad legal headaches for everybody involved. But the bottom line is that your local government (in the States) has the power to be (IMO) unreasonably restrictive. The Very Good Reason to get involved in local government is that it has the authority to severly affect the choices you have. What if you want to open a business and you don’t know in advanced that you are going to be required to drop \$10,000 on landscaping and \$3,000 on a dumpster screen? What if you buy a property under a grandfathered nonconforming use and, after a stint of cancer, let’s say, find that you can no longer operate your business because you haitus has let the use lapse? What if the winery you are about to break ground on is guaranteed to fail because the very ordinance you helped write proscribes secondary activities you need to survive 'til the vines mature? Not to mention those who are stuck with useless agricultural land because farming is a loser and the asshat NIMBYs don’t want more homes in the township, or because the priests of Farmland Preservation keep your land from becoming residential? C’est la guerre.

Laws by amateurs. It’s scary. You can see why I want to make sure I can keep the logic straight.

Means it applies only to properties which meet ALL conditions and there is no ambiguity. Whereas

means it applies to properties which meat at least one of the conditions.

If you want to simplify then “Shall apply to properties which (meet condition A) AND (meet condition B)” clearly applies only to those which meet both whereas “Applies to properties which (meet condition A) and to properties which (meet condition B)” clearly applies to those which meet any of the two.

Can you get a little more specific here?

I actually used to do this for a living – proof documents related to zoning (and other geographical issues) for the state I live in. As a result, my mind automatically conjures up every possible (not just plausible) interpretation of the language I’m seeing. So far, I don’t get enough info to make a suggestion re what language would serve the intended purpose.

What, precisely, is the intent of this language?

Mind you, I am not an expert in the law, but in language. In fact, my effectiveness in my position depended on being able to take a “reasonable layman” position. Very often, it was the drafters’ familiarity with the issue that kept them from seeing how others might misconstrue the language.

At the mo, I’m w/ Random’s 1st post. My guess is that “all lands within 500’ of the road” is the simplest, clearest solution. Why bother to mention frontage? This language would also clearly exempt portions of a [lot having sectors within 500’ of a road] which lie beyond the 500’ ROW.

I’m losing you here. If the intent is to declare imminent domain within 500’ of the roadway (if you’re measuring from the centerline, btw, best mention that – this is the standard in my state), then why would the gov’t not want to include property that lay behind a shallow lot?

Oh, god! Not a legislative draftsman!

Why not w/in 500’? I’m not sure. I think the intent is to prevent commercial strip development. I’m guessing that, since one can sue for rezoning, the overlay is to prevent strip development should the township lose rezoining lawsuits in the future. To that extent, the 500’ rule may be overdoing it a bit.

Regarless, it’s the language generally that I want to get a handle on. In this specific case, it would be showing that a property w/in 500’ but that does not front on the road is exempt (I think) because of the wording. (Thanks Sailor.)

So, is my guess correct? Are you a legislative draftsman?

You can rest easy, my friend. I am/was not a legislative draftsman. Now I work in private sector, but formerly for deputy director of the state office in charge of gerrymandering (sometimes called “legislative redistricting”), demographics, resource mapping, tranport mapping, etc. I drafted/edited/proofed a wide variety of documents, including standards for local parcel mapping and the like.

Two important points to keep in mind when trying to apply logic to language:

1. The use of terms such as “and” and “or” is entirely dependent on linguistic context. Changes in other parts of a sentence, even in other sentences, can drastically alter the significance of these conjunctions.
2. It is impossible to judge the accuracy or appropriateness of any phrasing without clearly understanding the original intent behind the language.

Which means, if you rely on a logical/mathematical template for this sort of thing, you will in some cases make serious mistakes. As an old prof of mine used to say, “language isn’t logical, it’s psychological.”

Sailor has the nub of it here (although I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility that certain conditions could be phrased so as to introduce ambiguity when plugged into this formula).

Note that the phrasing “Shall apply to properties which (meet condition A) or ([meet] condition B)” is generally equivalent to “Shall apply to properties which (meet condition A) and to properties which (meet condition B)”. Again, I say “generally” b/c it’s not impossible for phrasing of the conditions to introduce problems.

Consider “…shall apply to all lands having frontage along X and to all lands having frontage within 500 feet of X…” This means that the rule shall apply to the entire acreage of any parcel which has frontage along the road or which has frontage (with any other parcel, ROW, etc.) within 500’ of the road.

Since the former is by definition included in the latter group, the first condition is unnecessary. In fact, I’m having a hard time imagining a scenario in which this would not be the case, so I really don’t understand why both of these conditions need to be mentioned. Make it easy on yourself, here.

If it is not intended to include the entirety of all parcels having frontage within 500’, but merely those portions of said parcels at a distance of less than 500’ from the road, then the language needs to clearly reflect this, which brings me back to the “all lands within 500’ of the road” solution.

But again, you’re fighting a losing battle if you don’t first clarify intent and then tailor the language to it.

My break is over.

You’re closer than you know.

Yes, yes and no.

There are three main ways of attacking an ordinance or other local governmental decision. 1) The decision is beyond the authority delegated by the state to the unit of local government. 2) The UOLG failed to follow a required procedure (say, notice to nearby landowners) 3) The decision is unconstitutional.

Part of (3) is that govermental regulations on property must be reasonable, else they may be found to be an unconstitutional taking of property without compensation. That said, the standards applied by courts on this issue give extreme deference to the governmental decision. If there’s some reason that makes even minimal sense, the regulation will generally stand.