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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in California
The laws governing how land can and cannot be used in Madera County, California are fairly confusing, and can be confusing to laypersons. This should provide a basic overview.
Local governments will typically divide the city or town into sections, called "zones," each of which is designated for a particular use, such as residential homes, commercial businesses, agriculture, manufacturing, etc. This process is known as "zoning."
Zoning serves various different purposes - but it its main one is to increase or preserve property values by ensuring that conflicting uses don't result in legal disputes. Obviously, if you bought a house in a residential neighborhood, and your neighbor could simply convert his property into a steel mill, your property's value as a residential lot would decrease considerably.
Zoning laws usually acknowledge the necessities of things like factories, sewage treatment plants, and stockyards, but recognize that such activities shouldn't be conducted in residential areas.
What if My Property Violates Madera County, California's Zoning Laws?
Suppose you find that some condition on your land is in violation of Madera County, California's zoning laws. In cases like this, you have quite a few options.
First of all, and most simply, the owner could just fix the violation. If the violation isn't very substantial, and fixing it wouldn't cost very much, this is probably the best and easiest option.
What if, however, you've invested a substantial amount of time and money into making an improvement on your property, only to find that it violates your local zoning laws in some minor way? In this case, you can apply for a variance. This is typically an exception to the zoning rules. If declining to enforce these rules would not harm anyone, and would not do much to advance the purpose of Madera County, California's zoning laws, a variance will typically be granted.
Moreover, zoning ordinances cannot be applied against you retroactively. For example, 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 live 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 Madera County, California Attorney Help?
If you are in the process of physically altering your property, you are almost certain to face some concerns having to do with local zoning laws. If you find that zoning laws are making it very challenging to use your property as you see fit, you may have legal recourse, typically in the form of a variance. Of course, your chances of success in any zoning dispute will be immeasurably increased if you have the help of a qualified Madera County, California attorney.