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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Alabama

The laws controlling how land can and cannot be used in Birmingham, Alabama are fairly complicated, 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. Typically, 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 numerous different reasons that cities might engage in zoning - but it is typically 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 maintain 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 numerous legal disputes that would be inevitable if they were closer to a residential area.

What if My Property Violates Birmingham, Alabama's Zoning Laws?

If something on your property is in violation of a Birmingham, Alabama zoning law, the landowner has various avenues.

The most evident solution is to correct the problem, so your property is no longer in violation of local zoning laws. If the violation is minor, and correcting it would not be extremely costly, this is likely the ideal way to go.

Of course, just fixing a zoning violation isn't always inexpensive or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For instance, you might have just undertaken a substantial remodeling of your home, and later found out that some small part of it technically doesn't conform to Birmingham, Alabama's zoning laws. If this happens to you, you can apply to your local zoning board for what's known as a "variance." This is simply a decree by the zoning board that the particular rule your property violates no longer applies. The Supreme Court has held that local zoning boards have to grant variances when the violation is quite minor, and enforcing the ordinance would be unduly burdensome and not in the public interest.

You are also protected if your land is currently in complete compliance with local zoning regulations, but the area where your land sits is re-zoned, and your property is suddenly not in compliance with the new zoning regulations. Usually, these new regulations cannot be utilized to force you to change existing conditions on your property. No laws can be applied retroactively, under the U.S. Constitution. Of course, if you make any improvements on your land after the law changes, you'll have to comply with the new law.

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How Can a Birmingham, Alabama 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 conflict will be markedly improved if you hire an efficient Birmingham, Alabama real estate attorney to help.

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Life in Birmingham

As Alabama's biggest city with over 225,000 people, Birmingham is also the county seat for Jefferson County. The greater metropolitan area of Birmingham is estimated to have a population exceeding 1.25 million.

Founded in 1871, Birmingham has a diversified economy, with an original base of manufacturing other businesses and industries such as banking, transportation, telecommunications, power transmission, education, medical care, and insurance have all risen in importance. Coal mining remains a large business and the trucking industry has grown with the advent of the interstate highway system.

Birmingham, AL is an excellent place for those in the legal profession, with prestigious law schools such as the Birmingham School of Law, Cumberland School of Law and the University of Alabama School of Law located there. The telephone directory lists over 3800 Birmingham lawyers.

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