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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Alabama
The laws governing how land can and cannot be used in Jacksonville, Alabama 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 several 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 retain property values
Zoning also serves the interests of industry, as well as residents. By ensuring that there are places where heavy industry can take place, well-planned zoning regulations will ensure that industrialists are free to practice their trade, and that residents will not be disturbed by those activities, which makes industry more proficient by helping it avoid costly nuisance lawsuits.
What if My Property Violates Jacksonville, Alabama's Zoning Laws?
Suppose you find that some condition on your land is in violation of Jacksonville, Alabama's zoning laws. In cases like this, you have quite a few options.
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.
But what happens if you've invested a large amount of effort and money into improving your land, and you later discover that you've committed some relatively minor zoning violation? You are generally entitled to seek what is known as a "variance" in these cases. A variance is simply when your local government makes a small exception to the zoning rules to accommodate a small violation that would be difficult to fix. A variance will normally be granted if the violation doesn't harm anyone, and enforcing Jacksonville, Alabama's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.
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 Jacksonville, Alabama Attorney Help?
If you are in the process of physically altering your property, you are almost certain to face some contentions having to do with local zoning laws. If you find that zoning laws are making it very hard to use your property as you see fit, you may have legal recourse, normally in the form of a variance. Of course, your chances of success in any zoning dispute will be immeasurably increased if you have the help of a qualified Jacksonville, Alabama attorney.