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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Alabama

The laws controlling how land can and cannot be used in Huntsville, Alabama 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 also serves the interests of industry, as well as residents. By ensuring that there are places where heavy industry can take place, well-planned zoning regulations will ensure that industrialists are free to practice their trade, and that residents will not be disturbed by those activities, which makes industry more useful by helping it prevent costly nuisance lawsuits.

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

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

It should be noticeable 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.

Of course, just fixing a zoning violation isn't always modest or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For instance, you might have just undertaken a considerable remodeling of your home, and later found out that some small part of it technically doesn't conform to Huntsville, 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 extremely minor, and enforcing the ordinance would be unduly burdensome and not in the public interest.

You also have considerable protections if a zoning law changes, and you find that the land you've been living on for years is suddenly in violation of the new law. In general, zoning laws cannot apply to structures and uses which were built or commenced before the law was changed. Under the U.S. Constitution, it's not permissible for state or local governments to pass laws which have retroactive effect. You should know, however, that any future changes you make to your property will have to comply with the new zoning law.

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How Can a Huntsville, Alabama 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 Huntsville, Alabama 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.

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Life in Huntsville


With close to 180,000 residents, Huntsville Alabama is a city that is home to some major attractions. Located in the Northern region of Alabama, Huntsville was named on "America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2010 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. How did Huntsville get this honor? Because of the great amount of civil war history, NASA rockets, and beautiful geography Huntsville has to offer its residents and visitors alike.

Huntsville is located in the Tennessee River Valley, a location that lends itself to hot summers and mild winters. Because of its location, Huntsville also has tornadoes in the spring and fall.  

The Marshall Flight Center is another major point of interest in Huntsville.  Dedicated by President Eisenhower, the presence of the flight center has given Huntsville its nickname-- "Rocket City" and has been home to some great space developments since the 1950's.

Professional industries also thrive in Huntsville. Huntsville lawyers are a great asset to the city and the overall legal profession. Lawyers specializing in a range of practices are available to serve their clients with any legal need he or she may have. Huntsville is simply a great place to work, live, and play. 

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