Is a Taco a Sandwich? It Depends on Your City’s Zoning Laws

A land use dispute in Indiana points to broader questions about zoning and property rights.

2 minute read

May 23, 2024, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Close-up of multiple hands holding up plate of street-style tacos arranged in circular shape.


A dispute over whether a restaurant could open in a highway-adjacent strip mall in Fort Wayne, Indiana has brought the “Is a taco a sandwich?” question to the land use realm, reports Andrew Wimer in Forbes.

Residents who live near the strip mall say a proposed business would violate the “no fast food” rule that was part of the agreement made with the city when the property was rezoned from residential to commercial. “However, the agreement allowed for a shop that made custom sandwiches, such as a Jimmy Johns or Subway.”

As Wimer points out, “Quintana’s strip mall is not on a quiet residential avenue. In fact, right across the street is another strip mall that has a Moe’s Southwest Grill. A few hundred yards east is a strip mall with yet another Mexican restaurant and across the street from that is a Taco Bell.”

Similar zoning disputes are not uncommon. Wimer notes that, in many cases, “zoning rules often defy common sense,” barring perfectly reasonable uses or preventing people from operating home businesses. Now, the Institute for Justice has launched a Zoning Justice Project aimed at protecting the rights of people to use their property to their and their community’s benefit. “This includes not only the right to start businesses but also to build housing or use private property to tackle public problems, like homelessness or hunger.”

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