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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in New York

In White Plains, New York, 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 quite accessible to laypersons. This article should serve as a good overview of these laws.

Municipal governments which practice zoning normally follow a similar scheme: the town or city is divided up into "zones," or areas in which particular types of use are permitted. For instance, the downtown area might be zoned for commercial and office use, and perhaps for large, multi-unit apartment buildings. The surrounding areas will normally be zoned for residential and small-scale commercial use, and the outskirts zoned for manufacturing and other heavy industry.

The purpose of zoning is to preserve property values, and make towns and cities more livable. For instance, without zoning laws, a company might be able to purchase a vacant lot next to your house and create a noisy, smelly, dirty factory on it.

Zoning laws don't exist just to protect residential use - it also protects persons 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 preventing legal disputes.

What if My Property Violates White Plains, New York's Zoning Laws?

Zoning laws are frequently quite extensive and meticulous, and it's quite possible that your property in White Plains, New York contains some minor zoning violation that you don't know about. If this happens to you, you have substantial legal protections.

Initially, and perhaps most apparently, you can correct the violation. If the violation is comparatively minor, and correcting it would not cost you much or be a substantial burden, this might be the best way to go.

However, it isn't always practical or affordable to correct a minor violation of a zoning law. For instance, suppose you have just spent a large amount of money and effort remodeling a house to turn it into your dream home. You thought you were in total compliance with local zoning laws when you did this, but find out that there is some small, technical violation of White Plains, New York's zoning laws. In these cases, you have recourse in the form of a variance. You are entitled to petition the local zoning board to grant you a variance, which is an official decision not to apply a certain provision of a zoning law to a single violation. These aren't always granted, but usually have to be granted if the violation doesn't interfere with anyone else's use of their property, and doesn't thwart the purposes of local zoning laws.

Furthermore, if you have been residing 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 prevailing 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 White Plains, New York Attorney Help?

If you find yourself facing zoning or other land use issues, it's essential to have good legal advice. A reliable White Plains, New York 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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Life in White Plains

White Plains is located in Westchester County, New York.  It is an affluent county that is home to around one million people.  It is just north of New York City.  Surrounding areas include the Hudson River, Harrison, Long Island Sound, Scarsdale, and Greenburgh.  Per the 2010 census, White Plains itself has a population of 56,853 people.

Top employers include the Starwood Hotels, ITT, Bunge, Combe, Alliance Bernstein, Dannon, Krasdale Foods, Nine West, Vimeo, Acadia Realty Trust, AboveNet, Heineken, and Nokia.  Naturally, to support all these corporations, White Plains is home to excellent and qualified attorneys who are there to serve the legal needs of residents and businesses. 

Popular sites include the White Plains Armory, the Percy Grainger Home, and the Jacob Purdy House. 

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