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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Alaska

The laws governing how land can and cannot be used in Sitka, Alaska are fairly confusing, 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. Typically, 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 several different reasons that cities might engage in zoning - but it is typically 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 retain 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 several legal disputes that would be inevitable if they were closer to a residential area.

What if My Property Violates Sitka, Alaska's Zoning Laws?

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

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 probably the best and easiest option.

Of course, simply fixing a zoning violation isn't always inexpensive or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For example, 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 Sitka, 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 quite minor, and enforcing the ordinance would be unduly burdensome and not in the public interest.

Additionally, if the zoning laws covering your property have changed, and some aspect of it is now violating the new rules, these changes can usually not be enforced against you, because it would be unfair to apply a new law retroactively.

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How Can a Sitka, Alaska Attorney Help?

If you suddenly become involved in a zoning dispute with your local government, it's imperative to seek competent legal representation. The counsel of an efficient Sitka, 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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