If you own property you may not think about local government rules that apply to it until you want to make some changes. Depending on your plans and the zoning rules, that may or may not be a problem.
A zoning ordinance and regulations to enforce it are set up by municipalities to have some control over how property is used. Towns create an overall plan then enforce rules to further that plan. How the zoning ordinance and regulations impact you varies on your situation.
Problems normally arise when a property owner wants to build a new structure, renovate an existing building or change the use of that property.
● Your town may have various zones for residential, commercial and industrial use. If you want to run a commercial business from your residence, that may be a problem. There are probably also set back rules that limit how close to your neighbor's property your home can encroach and limits to how tall your home may be, so if you want an addition to your home there are restriction.
● If you own a business property a common issue for commercial buildings is that zoning rules normally require a certain number of parking spaces per square foot of your building. Your plans for the size of your building may not match the space you have for the required number of parking spaces.
Though your plans may conflict with zoning regulations, that doesn't necessarily mean you ultimately will be unable to do what you want with your property. Under the state law that enables municipalities to regulate land use there's also an allowance for a process for a party to get a variance, an exception to whatever zoning rule is blocking your path. Under the law local hearing board (a group of citizens empowered to make zoning decisions) may grant you a variance if you are suffering an "unnecessary hardship,"
● There are unique physical circumstances or conditions on the property and the unnecessary hardship is due to these conditions and not due to the circumstances or conditions generally created by the provisions of the zoning ordinance in the neighborhood or district where the property is located.
● Because of the physical circumstances or conditions there is no possibility that the property can be developed to conform with the zoning ordinance and allowing a variance is necessary to enable the reasonable use of the property.
● The unnecessary hardship was not created by the property owner.
● The variance will not change the essential character of the neighborhood or district where the property is located, nor substantially or permanently impair the appropriate use or development of adjacent property, nor be detrimental to the public welfare.
● The variance is the least degree of change needed to allow relief and represents the least modification possible of the regulation in issue.
If the variance is denied it may be challenged in court if there is sufficient legal grounds to do so and, on the other hand, if a variance is approved impacted landowners may also file a lawsuit to stop it.
If you have any questions about zoning laws or feel you need legal help with a zoning matter contact our office so we can talk about your situation, how the law may apply and your best options to protect your legal rights and interests.