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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Alaska

The laws governing how land can and cannot be used in Unalaska, Alaska are fairly complex, 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. Usually, towns or cities are segmented off into "zones," each one being designated for a specific type of use. Examples of common zoning categories are single family residence, commercial, multi-unit housing, or industrial.

There are several different reasons that cities might engage in zoning - but it is usually 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 retain property values

While zoning laws appear to be geared just toward protecting residents, they also protect industry, by ensuring that they are free to conduct their business without getting caught up in the several legal disputes that would be inevitable if they were closer to a residential area.

What if My Property Violates Unalaska, Alaska's Zoning Laws?

If a condition on your property violates the local zoning laws of Unalaska, Alaska, there are a few different solutions.

It should be clear, however, that the ideal solution is to simply fix any condition on your property which is in violation of a local zoning law. If the violation is not serious, and correcting it won't significantly interfere with your use of your property, this is probably the best course of action.

But what happens if you've invested a large amount of effort and money into improving your land, and you later discover that you've committed some relatively minor zoning violation? You are generally entitled to seek what is known as a "variance" in these cases. A variance is simply when your local government makes a small exception to the zoning rules to accommodate a small violation that would be difficult to fix. A variance will usually be granted if the violation doesn't harm anyone, and enforcing Unalaska, Alaska's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.

Also, if the zoning laws covering your property have changed, and some aspect of it is now violating the new rules, these changes can generally not be enforced against you, because it would be unfair to apply a new law retroactively.

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How Can a Unalaska, Alaska Attorney Help?

If you want to make improvements to your property, apply for a variance, or contest a zoning regulation as being applied to you retroactively, you have a right to do so, including some constitutional protections. However, your chances of prevailing in a zoning dispute will be markedly improved if you hire an experienced Unalaska, Alaska real estate attorney to help.

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