Zoning And Land Use Laws


Property zoning and land use municipal ordinances including city and township codes detail the legal rights and obligations of landowners with respect to their individual ownership and use of real property in commercial and mixed residential areas.

The purpose of zoning is to distinguish uses that are considered functionally incompatible with the surrounding residences and businesses. Zoning laws help assure that both the commercial and residential development of property is both rationale, conforming and in the best interests of the community.

All real property is subject to local and state zoning restrictions. No exception. Whether it is new construction, remodeling or renovation you must consider the local zoning laws before you expend money and resources.

Modifications to existing zoning laws and ordinances mandate a specific legal process and includes providing your local community with written notice of your land use plans. This is performed by applying for an application or petition for variance of existing zoning regulations.

To assist you in making decisions such as these, many property owners turn to real estate and land use lawyers for advice and guidance.

Zoning Variances

The application or petition for zoning variances must be submitted to and approved by your local planning commission. This usually requires presenting your case to an appointed zoning and planning board that will evaluate your petition and if necessary hold a public hearing on the matter.

Minor nonconformance with zoning laws are normally permitted without having to have a public hearing or formal presentation of evidence in support of your zoning-change request. This will depend however on how substantial (out of character) the variance is compared with the clear intent of the zoning laws in your specific area.

Zoning Laws – Public Policy

There is a growing public sentiment, especially within the business sector that contends that land use should be dictated by market forces and not by zoning commissions. They believe that zoning officials have too much power and too often ignore the legal rights of local commercial interests. Businesses however don’t always put the public interest first when applying for zoning changes.

Businesses often attempt to manipulate the zoning law in order to increase the value of their commercial property without adding any value to the community. This is particularly true when real estate developers attempt to manipulate the character of their property through zoning modification such as parceling large subdivisions and commercial expansion projects that tend to increase the overall value of their real estate.

Those businesses who do add value through changing zoning laws make tangible changes through actual improvement and renovation of the properties and thereby add to the overall economy through the improvement of local conditions.

Subjects of Land Use Zoning Disputes

The most common subjects of zoning law disputes involve: complaints of excessive noise amounting to a nuisance, property fencing, grass, weed and pest control, curfew, dumping, fire lane hydrant placement, no-build zones, parking limitations and permit use, signage, pet and animal control, placement of trees and even zoning laws covering when property owners are legally permitted to have yard sales.


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