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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Massachusetts

The laws that regulate how land can be used, and what structures can be built on individual pieces of land in Suffolk County, Massachusetts can sometimes be a bit complicated. This article will not make its reader an expert, but should serve as a good introduction to the subject.

Local governments will usually 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."

Local governments have several different reasons for enacting zoning laws, ranging from ensuring that residential areas are peaceful and quiet, to protecting property values. For example, most people wouldn't buy a home in a neighborhood where they knew it was possible for a neighbor to turn their house into a factory.

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 Suffolk County, Massachusetts's Zoning Laws?

If something on your property is in violation of a Suffolk County, Massachusetts zoning law, the landowner has several options.

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.

Sometimes, however, a landowner wants to make improvements on their property which might constitute a slight violation of Suffolk County, Massachusetts's zoning laws. In this case, the owner can apply for a variance - an official agreement from the local government to not enforce a particular zoning regulation. Generally, variances are granted when the violation is very minor, and, enforcing the letter of the zoning law would not do much to advance its broader purpose.

Additionally, if you have been living on your property for a long time, and made improvements on it that complied with the zoning laws in effect at the time, a new zoning law that would be violated by your current use of your property, the new law cannot be enforced against you. The U.S. Constitution bars the passage of "ex post facto," or retroactive, laws. Once the laws take effect, however, you'll have to comply with the new zoning laws with respect to any new improvements you want to make on your property.

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How Can a Suffolk County, Massachusetts Attorney Help?

If you find yourself facing zoning or other land use issues, it's crucial to have good legal advice. A good Suffolk County, Massachusetts attorney will help you work within the law to ensure that you are as free as possible to make the use of your land that you want.

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