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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in New Jersey

In West Caldwell, New Jersey, there are laws which determine what can and can't be done on certain 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" is the process by which a local government makes laws determining how individual pieces of land within its jurisdiction can be used. Usually, 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.

Local governments have numerous different reasons for enacting zoning laws, ranging from ensuring that residential areas are peaceful and quiet, to safeguarding property values. For instance, 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 numerous legal disputes that would be inevitable if they were closer to a residential area.

What if My Property Violates West Caldwell, New Jersey's Zoning Laws?

You have quite a few options if you find that a planned or prevailing use of your property breaks West Caldwell, New Jersey's zoning regulations.

It should be clear, however, that the ideal solution is to just fix any condition on your property which is in violation of a local zoning law. If the violation is not significant, and correcting it won't significantly interfere with your use of your property, this is likely the ideal course of action.

What if, however, you've invested a significant amount of time and money into making an improvement on your property, only to find that it breaks your local zoning laws in some minor way? In this case, you can apply for a variance. This is essentially 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 West Caldwell, New Jersey's zoning laws, a variance will usually be granted.

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 West Caldwell, New Jersey Attorney Help?

If you are in the early stages of a major construction or remodeling project on your property, particularly if it is in a residential area (where zoning laws tend to be most restrictive), you are likely to encounter one zoning law issue or another. Of course, having read this article, you should now be aware that you have rights when it comes to contesting a zoning law as applied to you. While such contests do not always come out on the side of the landowner, the assistance of a reputable West Caldwell, New Jersey real estate attorney will greatly improve one's chances.

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