Land use laws commonly involve zoning laws that govern the development of real estate.

Who Decides Land Use Planning Laws?

The federal government typically does not directly regulate the zoning of property. Instead, local and state governments are in charge of regulating the use of property in their local communities. However, the federal government does indirectly influence how land use regulated by how it distributes money for state and local projects.

Four entities have authority over how land is used:

  • Voters in the jurisdiction
  • State regulation
  • Local regulation
  • Regional regulation

What Is Zoning?

Zoning is the way property is divided into zones such as:

  • Commercial
  • Residential
  • Industrial

These zones are typically separated from each other and include further laws on:

  • Where utility lines are placed
  • Building requirements

How Do I Find Out How My Land Is Zoned?

A landowner should obtain a copy of the zoning map and ordinances where their land is located. The government office overseeing the zone area typically have a copy of the map. Check the map for zone designation. Designations include zones like agricultural and cumulative. 

What If I Find Out That My Property Does Not Comply with Zoning Ordinances?

If this happens, a landowner generally has some options. They can apply for a zoning variance, which allows them to the land in a way it was not originally intended. This requires a landowner to show that they will incur serious financial problems if the variance is not approved.

Request a permit. This is called a conditional or special permit because it allows a landowner to use the land in a way it is not zoned for. The permit expires when the land is sold or transferred.

Determine whether the land is considered non-conforming use. A landowner does not have to conform property to new zoning laws.

Should I Consult an Attorney Regarding Land Use Laws?

Land use laws are complicated. It is highly recommended that you contact a real estate lawyer about any land use concerns you have.