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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Alaska

The laws governing how land can and cannot be used in Anchorage, Alaska are fairly difficult, and can be confusing to laypersons. This should provide a basic overview.

"Zoning" is the process by which a local government makes laws determining how individual pieces of land within its jurisdiction can be used. Normally, towns or cities are segmented off into "zones," each one being designated for a specific type of use. Examples of common zoning categories are single family residence, commercial, multi-unit housing, or industrial.

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

Zoning laws typically 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 Anchorage, Alaska's Zoning Laws?

If something on your property is in violation of a Anchorage, Alaska zoning law, the landowner has many options.

The most noticeable solution is to correct the problem, so your property is no longer in violation of local zoning laws. If the violation is minor, and correcting it would not be very costly, this is likely the best way to go.

Of course, simply fixing a zoning violation isn't always modest or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For example, you might have just undertaken a considerable remodeling of your home, and later found out that some small part of it technically doesn't conform to Anchorage, Alaska'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 extremely 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 full 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. Typically, these new regulations cannot be used 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 Anchorage, Alaska 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 Anchorage, Alaska 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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Life in Anchorage

Anchorage has been voted an "All America City" four times and makes up over 40% of Alaska's total population. The city motto is "Big Wild Life" and there's plenty of it. A survey found roughly 300 black bears and moose, along side 60 grizzly bears call Anchorage home year round. The numbers of moose increase over 1,000 in the winter months. There are also wolves, foxes, beavers, and all other manner of moderate and small native animals that can be easily spotted in Anchorage. That's why so many people decide to visit Anchorage each year. 

Tourism play a major role in the economy with natural resource extraction, local and federal government, transportation services, and the military. There are two major military installations in Anchorage, Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson, as well as the Kullis Air National Guard Base. In addition to military personnel, the military employs another 8,600 Anchorage civilians. There are a number of airlines headquartered in Anchorage like Alaska Central Express and Hageland Aviation Services but the petroleum industry is one of the most important. Giants like BP and ConocoPhillips have drilling and transportation services in Anchorage that employ thousands of locals.

The International Ice Carving Competition is one aspect to the annual of the Fur Rendezvous Festival held in Anchorage's Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. The festival had a record attendance in 2000 with over 250,000 people visiting. The legendary 9-15 day long Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race begins ceremonially each year downtown on 4th Street and ends in Nome, Alaska. The race stretches 1,049 miles that are timed. It's known as one of the most intense sporting events due to the distance and blizzards.

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