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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Texas

Sherman, Texas 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.

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 example, 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.

Zoning serves various different purposes - but it its main one is to increase or preserve property values by ensuring that conflicting uses don't result in legal disputes. Obviously, if you bought a house in a residential neighborhood, and your neighbor could simply convert his property into a steel mill, your property's value as a residential lot would decrease considerably.

Zoning laws usually acknowledge the necessities of things like factories, sewage treatment plants, and stockyards, but recognize that such activities shouldn't be conducted in residential areas.

What if My Property Violates Sherman, Texas's Zoning Laws?

You have quite a few options if you find that a planned or current use of your property violates Sherman, Texas's zoning regulations.

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.

What if, however, you've invested a substantial amount of time and money into making an improvement on your property, only to find that it violates your local zoning laws in some minor way? In this case, you can apply for a variance. This is typically 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 Sherman, Texas's zoning laws, a variance will typically be granted.

You also have substantial 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 Sherman, Texas Attorney Help?

If you are in the early stages of a major construction or remodeling project on your property, especially if it is in a residential area (where zoning laws tend to be most restrictive), you are likely to confront 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 guidance of a knowledgeable Sherman, Texas real estate attorney will greatly improve one's chances.

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