Zoning regulations dictate how a piece of land can be used, including whether residential or commercial properties can exist in a certain zone
Something you may not think about often is the fact that zoning laws impact where people can live and where businesses can operate in your city or community. But when a dispute arises because a new industrial building moves into the area, or when you're trying to build a new home in or near a commercial zone, you'll need to understand the laws impacting the zone in question.
Working with a real estate attorney is a good way to ensure you follow all laws and regulations, and they can assist you through the legal process from start to finish. Here's a look at what zoning laws are and common zoning disputes that arise in a variety of cities and communities.
What is zoning?
Local governments divide land into different zones, known as property zoning, that these zones restrict the types of uses and purposes for an area of land.
Common types of zones include commercial, where retail stores and businesses are located, and residential zones where houses, condos, and apartments can be built. Industrial zones are where factories can be built, and environmental zones aim to protect a natural area from being built on.
Zoning ensures that areas are used in the most efficient ways possible for a community, and ensures that there aren't a lot of commercial or industrial properties mixed into a residential area.
Common zoning issues
1. Sub-zones and overlapping zones
As you can imagine, many issues arise with zoning in any given city or region. There are often sub-zones that further complicate matters. For example, a residential zone could be broken into sub-categories that allow only for certain types of homes to be built, such as single-family homes versus apartment buildings.
In addition, more rural areas often experience an issue where a property could be within more than one zone. Land that's used for farming in a rural zone could also be part of an environmental zone, so there will be even more guidelines to follow related to both.
2. Property boundaries
Major zoning disputes can arise between homeowners, between developers of commercial properties, or between landowners and the local government. Property boundaries may be put into question, or residential neighborhoods may not want a business to move into the area because they don't want a parking lot built nearby.
Another common dispute relates to the aesthetics of a neighborhood or area. For example, homeowners may not want their view obstructed by a tall building or the way an industrial building or a lot of advertisements makes the community or neighborhood look.
4. Setback issues
A common term to be aware of in zoning matters is a “setback” issue, which means the distance from a property line to where the building can sit, mostly for either visual or safety reasons. Governments create setback ordinances that are meant to cater to an aesthetic or to avoid issues related to ventilation or overcrowded buildings in an area.
5. Pollution or waste
Property owners commonly make complaints that lead to disputes regarding pollution or noise caused by industrial buildings or commercial properties. For example, homeowners within a quiet community could complain that they've noticed excessive waste coming from a plant that opened nearby, and they're worried how it will impact residents.
What to do in a zoning dispute
The initial step if a dispute arises is to file a claim with the city government, and while the parties will have an opportunity to resolve the matter between everyone involved, the local government will intervene if that's not possible.
In some cases, one party will file a lawsuit about a zoning issue. If there's any kind of discrimination suspected in a case that impacts a large group of people within an area, a class-action lawsuit may be filed.
It's always a good idea to work with an experienced attorney who knows the local zoning laws and can assist you in the next steps with your dispute.
At PeytonBolin, our team is here to help with all things real estate, including zoning ordinances and disputes. Contact our team of lawyers today to learn more about our services and to receive a free phone consultation.