Zoning laws divide geographic areas into residential, commercial and industrial districts. In order to serve this purpose, zoning laws provide the types, heights, and sizes of buildings permitted, establish minimal boundaries between structures and minimal setbacks from the street, designate how many rooms a building in a particular area may have and whether homes in the area may be multi-family dwellings. They may also assign historic significance to some buildings, requiring owners to preserve certain architectural features.
It is likely that you have heard or read about zoning disputes; you may even be a party to one right now or need help in developing a property that is subject to zoning restrictions. Your first step in the process should be to consult with an experienced real estate attorney who has in-depth knowledge of local laws and agencies and can help you apply for and negotiate the zoning designation you desire.
How Zoning Laws Affect Private Homeowners
You may think that zoning does not affect you unless you are a business, but many homeowners get involved in zoning disputes when purchasing or selling real estate, adding extensions or other structures to their property, or have a dispute with their neighbor, or live in a mixed-use area. Zoning disputes are not rare, though most occur between private commercial property owners and local government.
Common Zoning Disputes:
Do any of these zoning disputes sound familiar?
- Commercial business owner is changing the character of your residential community;
- View from your home is being obstructed by the height of a new home or business;
- Commercial signs are being placed on residential streets near your home;
- A nearby building is being constructed too near the street;
- An Industrial, agricultural or commercial business is polluting the local environment with debris on land, chemicals or germs in the water, smoke or excessive noise in the air; or
- A neighbor is operating a business out of their home.
All of these issues can create a zoning problem for which individuals and businesses need legal advice.
How are zoning disputes best resolved?
Zoning disputes between neighbors can sometimes be resolved through conversation and compromise. When this doesn’t work, or when you are confronting a large company with seemingly endless financial resources, it is essential that you engage the services of an experienced zoning lawyer with a track record of success with government agencies and in court.
When Being in the Right Is Not Enough
When you are protecting the appearance and economic value of your home or business, as well as the quality of life and health of your family, you should not fight a zoning issue without legal representation. Some of the reasons you need a knowledgeable zoning attorney are:
- To level the playing field between you and the government agency or attorneys on the opposing side;
- To provide you with legal resources and perspectives you haven’t been trained in;
- To provide you with experts to evaluate your property with provable precision and to determine how much the zoning interference is likely to diminish the value of your home;
- To negotiate for you with strategies that have won such cases before;
- To fight for you when you are confronting the power of local city government;
- To provide you with skillful advocacy in the courtroom if litigation is necessary; and
- To give you moral support and the confidence of knowing you are in good hands.
Zoning disputes can be emotionally, as well as logistically and procedurally challenging. Make sure you have a legal professional in your corner before taking one on.