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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Virginia

Manassas Park, Virginia has laws which control 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 frequent issues that homeowners might face, though it is not meant to turn a layperson into an expert.

Municipal governments which practice zoning usually 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 usually be zoned for residential and small-scale commercial use, and the outskirts zoned for manufacturing and other heavy industry.

There are many different reasons that cities might engage in zoning - but it is normally designed around making cities more livable, by preventing conflicting uses from clashing with one another. After all, few people would want to live in a house next to a vacant lot, if there is a chance that somebody could decide to build a pig farm next door. The security provided by zoning laws helps preserve property values

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 many legal disputes that would be inevitable if they were closer to a residential area.

What if My Property Violates Manassas Park, Virginia's Zoning Laws?

Zoning laws are commonly quite extensive and meticulous, and it's extremely possible that your property in Manassas Park, Virginia contains some minor zoning violation that you don't know about. If this happens to you, you have considerable legal protections.

First, and perhaps most evidently, you can correct the violation. If the violation is relatively minor, and correcting it would not cost you much or be a considerable burden, this might be the best way to go.

Sometimes, however, a landowner wants to make improvements on their property which might constitute a slight violation of Manassas Park, Virginia's zoning laws. In this case, the owner can apply for a variance - an official agreement from the local government to not enforce a particular zoning regulation. Typically, variances are granted when the violation is extremely minor, and, enforcing the letter of the zoning law would not do much to advance its broader purpose.

Additionally, 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 Manassas Park, Virginia Attorney Help?

If you suddenly become involved in a zoning dispute with your local government, it's necessary to seek competent legal representation. The counsel of an accomplished Manassas Park, Virginia real estate attorney can make it much easier for you to act within the law to use your own property as you wish, or at least be as free as possible to make improvements to your land.

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