Ultimate Guide to Zoning and Land Use Laws

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What Are Zoning and Land Use Laws?

Zoning ordinances are regulations for land use within cities and counties. Zoning categorizes and separates different land uses into districts within a city and county. Land use laws and regulations govern the way that land can be used in any given area. These laws are usually maintained by local governments and by municipal codes. Local governments typically provide separate districts for residential, business, and industrial uses.

What Are the Most Common Uses Found in Zoning Ordinances?

What Are the Most Common Types of Zones?

The most common types of zones encountered in land use regulations are:

How Can I Get Around a Zoning Ordinance?

If you own property that is subject to a zoning ordinance and that ordinance is preventing you from using your land the way you intend, you may attempt to circumvent the zoning ordinance through a variance or an amendment or rezoning.

Who Makes Zoning Decisions?

Zoning decisions are typically made by the planning or zoning department within municipalities. These departments propose zoning ordinances and oversee zoning and land use hearings. These departments will also make the decisions regarding variances, conditional use permits, and other issues related to zoning ordinances and land use laws.

Procedurally, first, a public hearing is held where the individual can present their case to the department. There is also an option for public comment regarding the individual’s complaints or proposal. The decision made by the department may be appealed to a court if it is unfavorable to the individual.

What Are Permissible Restrictions?

Nonconforming uses are generally disfavored, and, therefore, a variety of restrictive techniques may be implemented and which are generally upheld. The most common restrictive techniques include:

What Is a Land Use Plan?

In regards to land use regulations, land use plans are implemented which determine how land is to be used, allotted, and improved by private or government entities. A land use plan can be implemented to ensure that zoning ordinances are being followed. A well-executed land use plan is essential for certain industries, including farming, mining and natural gas.

Most local city governments likely have a land use plan in place that aids in structuring how the city will operate. For example, some cities will have a goal to be a “green city,” meaning they are environmentally conscious and practice conservation. The land use plan will outline how the city operates to promote an environmentally friendly development. Businesses must adhere to the principles in the land use plan.

What Are Penalties for Violating Land Use Regulations?

If an individual violates a land use regulation, the individual is usually subject to an injunction, which orders the individual to do something or not to do something. Additionally, violations of land use regulations could subject a person to damages if a party has suffered an economic loss as a result of the violation. Both private and government entities are subject to lawsuits for land use violations.

Should I Consult an Attorney?

Land use regulations and zoning ordinances can be complicated. Consulting with a real property attorney can offer some guidance regarding land use regulations and zoning ordinances. Whether you are planning on investing in land, starting a business, are subject to a zoning ordinance, or are facing legal penalties for violating a land use regulation, an attorney can aid you through the process to protect your rights.

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Last Modified: 08-18-2015 09:28 AM PDT

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