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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in North Carolina

In New Bern, North Carolina, there are laws which determine what can and can't be done on given parcels of land. These laws get pretty involved sometimes, and aren't always very accessible to laypersons. This article should serve as a good overview of these laws.

"Zoning" refers to a set of laws and regulations which state what use can be made of land in different parts of a city or county. Generally, localities are divided up into "zones," which are designated for certain categories of use, such as single-family residence, business, manufacturing, etc.

Local governments have many 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.

Zoning laws don't exist just to protect residential use - it also protects people who engage in other types of use of land, by making sure that they are able to do their business, without bothering neighboring landowners, and thereby avoiding legal disputes.

What if My Property Violates New Bern, North Carolina's Zoning Laws?

If something on your property is in violation of a New Bern, North Carolina zoning law, the landowner has several options.

It should be discernible that the first option you should consider is to correct the violation. If doing this wouldn't cost you very much, or pose a major inconvenience, you should obviously do this.

Of course, simply fixing a zoning violation isn't always affordable or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For example, you might have just undertaken a significant remodeling of your home, and later found out that some small part of it technically doesn't conform to New Bern, North Carolina'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 very minor, and enforcing the ordinance would be unduly burdensome and not in the public interest.

You also have significant 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 New Bern, North Carolina Attorney Help?

If you are in the process of physically altering your property, you are almost certain to face some issues having to do with local zoning laws. If you find that zoning laws are making it very difficult to use your property as you see fit, you may have legal recourse, usually 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 New Bern, North Carolina attorney.

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