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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Alaska
The laws controlling how land can and cannot be used in Barrow, Alaska are fairly intricate, and can be confusing to laypersons. This should provide a basic overview.
"Zoning" is the process by which a local government makes laws determining how individual pieces of land within its jurisdiction can be used. Normally, towns or cities are segmented off into "zones," each one being designated for a specific type of use. Examples of typical zoning categories are single family residence, commercial, multi-unit housing, or industrial.
There are various different reasons that cities might engage in zoning - but it is normally designed around making cities more livable, by preventing conflicting uses from clashing with one another. After all, few people would want to live in a house next to a vacant lot, if there is a chance that somebody could decide to build a pig farm next door. The security provided by zoning laws helps uphold property values
Zoning laws typically acknowledge the necessities of things like factories, sewage treatment plants, and stockyards, but recognize that such activities shouldn't be done in residential areas.
What if My Property Violates Barrow, Alaska's Zoning Laws?
If something on your property is in violation of a Barrow, Alaska zoning law, the landowner has many avenues.
It should be discernible that the first option you should consider is to correct the violation. If doing this wouldn't cost you very much, or pose a massive inconvenience, you should obviously do this.
Occasionally, however, a landowner wants to make improvements on their property which might constitute a slight violation of Barrow, Alaska's zoning laws. In this case, the owner can apply for a variance - an official agreement from the local government to not enforce a certain zoning regulation. Typically, variances are granted when the violation is extremely minor, and, enforcing the letter of the zoning law would not do much to advance its broader purpose.
Additionally, zoning ordinances cannot be applied against you retroactively. For instance, suppose you built a 3-story house on your property, and your property was zoned to allow 3-story houses to be built at the time of construction. And then, years later, the area you reside in is re-zoned, to only allow 2-story houses. Can the local government force you to remove a whole level of your house? Of course not. Applying a law retroactively is unconstitutional. On the other hand, any future changes you want to make to your property will have to comply with the applicable zoning ordinance as it is currently written.
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How Can a Barrow, Alaska Attorney Help?
If you suddenly become involved in a zoning dispute with your local government, it's necessary to seek competent legal representation. The counsel of an accomplished Barrow, Alaska real estate attorney can make it much easier for you to act within the law to use your own property as you wish, or at least be as free as possible to make improvements to your land.