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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Pennsylvania

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has laws which regulate how individual parcels of land can be used, and how they cannot. These rules aren't always simple, and this article should serve as an introduction to some of the most prevalent issues that homeowners might face, though it is not meant to turn a layperson into an expert.

"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. Usually, localities are divided up into "zones," which are designated for specific 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 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 avoiding legal disputes.

What if My Property Violates Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's Zoning Laws?

If a condition on your property violates the local zoning laws of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, there are a few different solutions.

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

But what happens if you've invested a large amount of effort and money into improving your land, and you later discover that you've committed some relatively minor zoning violation? You are generally entitled to seek what is known as a "variance" in these cases. A variance is simply when your local government makes a small exception to the zoning rules to accommodate a small violation that would be difficult to fix. A variance will typically be granted if the violation doesn't harm anyone, and enforcing Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.

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 Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Attorney Help?

If you find yourself facing zoning or other land use issues, it's important to have good legal advice. A knowledgeable Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 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 Harrisburg

Harrisburg is located in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.  It has a population of over 49,000 people.  The primary industries that drive the city's economy are steel and agriculture.  Interestingly, in 2010 Forbes Magazine ranked Harrisburg as the second best place in the United States to raise a family!  Another interesting fact is that the popular chocolate company Hershey's has its headquarters located about ten miles outside of Harrisburg.

Being ranked as the second best place to raise a family illustrates that Harrisburg is a great city with a community-like spirit.  The city is filled with hard-working families.  Amongst these families are many attorneys, who practice in various areas of law.  These attorneys focus on providing their clients with personalized legal services.  Further, these attorneys focus on being affordable.  The median income for a household in Harrisburg ranges between $40,000-$50,000.  Therefore, affordable legal service is a great thing!

Overall, Harrisburg is a wonderful place to settle down and raise a family.  The atmosphere emphasizes a strong community that has a competent legal force.  

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