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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Alabama

The laws controlling how land can and cannot be used in Mobile, Alabama are fairly complicated, 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 typical zoning categories are single family residence, commercial, multi-unit housing, or industrial.

There are a lot of rationales and purposes for zoning laws. In general, they're based in common sense: chemical plants shouldn't be constructed next to daycare centers, pig farms should not be constructed in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and other simple principles similar to that. Zoning laws, by keeping conflicting land uses separate, make life easier for all parties, ensuring that property values will be preserved, and that necessary industries can be conducted where they will not bother anyone.

Zoning laws usually acknowledge the necessities of things like factories, sewage treatment plants, and stockyards, but recognize that such activities shouldn't be done in residential areas.

What if My Property Violates Mobile, Alabama's Zoning Laws?

If something on your property is in violation of a Mobile, Alabama zoning law, the landowner has various avenues.

The most discernible 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 extremely costly, this is likely the ideal way to go.

However, it isn't always practical or affordable to correct a minor violation of a zoning law. For instance, suppose you have just spent a large amount of money and effort remodeling a house to turn it into your dream home. You thought you were in total compliance with local zoning laws when you did this, but find out that there is some small, technical violation of Mobile, Alabama's zoning laws. In these cases, you have recourse in the form of a variance. You are entitled to petition the local zoning board to grant you a variance, which is an official decision not to apply a certain provision of a zoning law to a single violation. These aren't always granted, but usually have to be granted if the violation doesn't interfere with anyone else's use of their property, and doesn't thwart the purposes of local zoning laws.

Additionally, if the zoning laws governing 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 Mobile, Alabama Attorney Help?

If you are in the early stages of a major construction or remodeling project on your property, particularly if it is in a residential area (where zoning laws tend to be most restrictive), you are likely to confront one zoning law issue or another. Of course, having read this article, you should now be aware that you have rights when it comes to contesting a zoning law as applied to you. While such contests do not always come out on the side of the landowner, the guidance of a reliable Mobile, Alabama real estate attorney will greatly improve one's chances.

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Life in Mobile

Mobile is unsurprisingly the seat of Mobile County. You may not know, however, that Mobile is the largest municipality on the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and St. Petersburg, Florida. In fact, over 400,000 residents live in Mobile, which was the first state capital of Louisiana. Mobile is also famous for being a Gulf Coast cultural hub. the city boasts the oldest organized celebrations like Carnival and Mardi Gras.

Tourism plays a major role in the Mobile economy. At Battleship Memorial park you can tour the USS Alabama battleship from WWII and Korean War submarine the USS Drum. The Mobile Carnival Museum offers Mardi Gras history and memorabilia like floats and costumes. A number of historic antebellum house museums like the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion from 1855 can be found in Mobile as well. A few of the other exciting attractions to which tourists flock consist of the Gulf Coast Exploratoreum, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and Mobile Botanical Gardens that earn the city's nickname the "Azalea City."

Mobile is known nationally as a hub for business. Mobile industries include steel fabrication and building, aerospace, retail, medicine, manufacturing and transportation. The Alabama State Docks recently underwent a $300 million expansion project that provided new jobs. Additionally, Mobile's Austal USA shipbuilding company will be trusted with constructing U.S. Forces vessels after winning another multi-billion dollar defense contract with the United States Government in late 2010.

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