Prince William County Land Use, Zoning and Planning Lawyers
Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Virginia
Prince William County, Virginia has a fairly considerable number of laws that dictate how specific plots of real estate can and cannot be used, and what can and can't be built on them, and these laws aren't always easy to follow. This article won't make you an authority on the subject, but should introduce you to some of the most essential concepts in zoning law.
"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.
Zoning serves various different purposes - but it its major 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 just convert his property into a steel mill, your property's value as a residential lot would decrease considerably.
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 Prince William County, Virginia's Zoning Laws?
Suppose you find that some condition on your land is in violation of Prince William County, Virginia's zoning laws. In cases like this, you have quite a few avenues.
First of all, and most simply, the owner could just fix the violation. If the violation isn't very substantial, and fixing it wouldn't cost very much, this is likely the best and simplest option.
Of course, just fixing a zoning violation isn't always inexpensive or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For instance, you might have just undertaken a substantial remodeling of your home, and later found out that some small part of it technically doesn't conform to Prince William County, Virginia's zoning laws. If this happens to you, you can apply to your local zoning board for what's known as a "variance." This is simply a decree by the zoning board that the particular rule your property violates no longer applies. The Supreme Court has held that local zoning boards have to grant variances when the violation is quite minor, and enforcing the ordinance would be unduly burdensome and not in the public interest.
You are also protected if your land is currently in complete compliance with local zoning regulations, but the area where your land sits is re-zoned, and your property is suddenly not in compliance with the new zoning regulations. Usually, these new regulations cannot be utilized to force you to change existing conditions on your property. No laws can be applied retroactively, under the U.S. Constitution. Of course, if you make any improvements on your land after the law changes, you'll have to comply with the new law.
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How Can a Prince William County, Virginia Attorney Help?
If you want to make improvements to your property, apply for a variance, or contest a zoning regulation as being applied to you retroactively, you have a right to do so, including some constitutional protections. However, your chances of prevailing in a zoning conflict will be markedly improved if you hire an efficient Prince William County, Virginia real estate attorney to help.