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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Alabama
The laws governing how land can and cannot be used in Montgomery County, 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 a lot of rationales and purposes for zoning laws. In general, they're based in common sense: chemical plants shouldn't be created next to daycare centers, pig farms should not be created 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 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 Montgomery County, Alabama's Zoning Laws?
If something on your property is in violation of a Montgomery County, Alabama 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 Montgomery County, Alabama'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.
Furthermore, if the zoning laws covering your property have changed, and some aspect of it is now violating the new rules, these changes can typically not be enforced against you, because it would be unfair to apply a new law retroactively.
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How Can a Montgomery County, Alabama 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 Montgomery County, Alabama 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.