View protection laws pertain to a person’s right to preserve their view from their property. Some places have specific “view ordinances” in place, while others do not.
These laws are usually separate from environmental laws, which aim to protect and preserve the environment and natural resources.
In situations where view protection laws and environmental laws intersect, resolving the issue can become more complicated. The rights of property owners to preserve their views must be balanced against the need to protect the environment and natural resources.
Here are some examples of situations where these laws may intersect:
- Protected tree species: When a view is obstructed by a tree that is protected by environmental laws or local regulations, removing or trimming the tree may require obtaining a permit or approval from a relevant authority. In some cases, the request may be denied to protect the tree species or its habitat, and the property owner may have to explore alternative solutions.
- Environmentally sensitive areas: If a property is located in an environmentally sensitive area, such as a wetland or a coastal zone, additional regulations may apply to protect the natural resources and ecosystems in the area. These regulations may limit the options available to property owners for addressing view obstructions.
- Historic or cultural landmarks: When a view obstruction involves a historic or cultural landmark, both view protection and preservation of the landmark must be considered. In such cases, a balance may need to be struck between the interests of the property owner and the importance of preserving the landmark.
- Protected view corridors: In some jurisdictions, certain view corridors are designated as protected to maintain the visual character of a neighborhood or cityscape. Development and construction in these areas may be subject to additional regulations to ensure that the protected view corridors are not compromised.
In these situations, consult with a knowledgeable attorney who understands both view protection laws and environmental regulations. They can help you navigate the complexities of these intersecting laws and provide guidance on the best course of action for protecting your view while also respecting environmental concerns.
What Are View Ordinances?
A view ordinance is a regulation enacted by a local government to protect the views of property owners from obstructions caused by neighboring properties, including trees and structures.
View ordinances typically cover issues like height restrictions, tree trimming, and the obstruction of scenic views. View ordinances generally do not cover the destruction of property but may provide remedies for the removal or trimming of trees or structures that obstruct a protected view.
Some common remedies that may be provided include:
- Tree trimming or removal: If a tree on a neighboring property is causing a view obstruction, the property owner may request the tree to be trimmed or removed. The process may involve obtaining a permit, and trimming or removal should be carried out in a manner that does not harm the tree’s health unless removal is explicitly allowed.
- Structure modification or removal: If a structure, such as a fence, wall, or building, is causing a view obstruction, the property owner may request modifications or removal of the structure to restore the view. This remedy may be subject to certain limitations, such as height restrictions or structural safety considerations.
- Mediation or arbitration: Some view ordinances may require or encourage property owners to participate in mediation or arbitration to resolve view disputes amicably. This process involves a neutral third party who helps the parties reach an agreement on how to address the view obstruction.
- Monetary compensation: In some cases, a property owner may be entitled to monetary compensation if the view obstruction has caused a significant decrease in property value or enjoyment of the property. This remedy may require proving the extent of the loss in a court of law or through an arbitration process.
- View corridors: Some view ordinances may establish view corridors that require property owners to maintain unobstructed views of specific landmarks or natural features. These corridors may be enforced through zoning regulations or easements.
- Alternative view locations: In some cases, a property owner may be entitled to an alternative view location if their view is obstructed by a public project or development. The alternative view location may be on the same property or nearby property.
Remedies under view ordinances typically become available when a property owner can demonstrate that a neighboring tree or structure is significantly obstructing their view and that the obstruction is in violation of the local ordinance.
The property owner may need to follow specific procedures, such as filing a complaint with the local government or providing written notice to the neighbor, to initiate the process of seeking a remedy.
Are There Any Situations Where the View Ordinance Does Not Apply?
There are situations where a view ordinance might not apply, such as:
- If the local jurisdiction does not have a view ordinance in place.
- If the obstruction is caused by a protected tree species, which may be regulated under environmental laws.
- If the obstruction is caused by a structure that predates the view ordinance or is otherwise exempted.
- If the property owner has waived their view rights in some manner, such as through a written agreement with a neighbor.
- If the property is located in an area that is not covered by the view ordinance. For example, a view ordinance may only apply to certain neighborhoods or areas within a city or town.
- If the obstruction is not within the scope of the view ordinance. View ordinances typically regulate only specific types of obstructions, such as buildings, fences, or trees, and may not cover other types of obstructions, like billboards or power lines.
- If the obstruction is on public property rather than private property. A view ordinance typically applies only to obstructions on private property.
- If the property owner is not the owner of the obstructed property. A view ordinance typically only applies to property owners who are directly affected by the obstruction.
- If the obstruction is caused by a natural event, such as a landslide or earthquake, rather than by human action. View ordinances may not cover natural obstructions that are outside of human control.
What Can You Do If You Have a View Obstruction?
If you have a view obstruction, you may have several legal options depending on the situation and local regulations:
- Consult your local view ordinance to understand your rights and the procedure for addressing view obstructions.
- If the obstruction involves a tree, you may be allowed to request removal or trimming of the tree, but this may be subject to certain restrictions, such as obtaining a permit or ensuring the tree’s health is not compromised.
- Mediate or negotiate with your neighbor to find a mutually acceptable solution, such as sharing the cost of trimming or removal.
- If necessary, take legal action to enforce your rights under the view ordinance or other applicable laws.
Do I Need to Consult with an Attorney on this Topic?
While it may be possible to address view obstructions without the assistance of an attorney, consulting with a real estate lawyer who specializes in view protection laws can be beneficial.
A knowledgeable attorney can help you understand your rights, navigate the complexities of local ordinances, and provide guidance on the best course of action to protect your view.