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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Alabama

The laws controlling how land can and cannot be used in Selma, 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 Selma, Alabama's Zoning Laws?

Zoning laws are frequently quite extensive and meticulous, and it's quite possible that your property in Selma, Alabama contains some minor zoning violation that you don't know about. If this happens to you, you have substantial legal protections.

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 likely the best and simplest option.

Occasionally, however, a landowner wants to make improvements on their property which might constitute a slight violation of Selma, Alabama's zoning laws. In this case, the owner can apply for a variance - an official agreement from the local government to not enforce a certain zoning regulation. Usually, variances are granted when the violation is quite minor, and, enforcing the letter of the zoning law would not do much to advance its broader purpose.

Moreover, zoning ordinances cannot be applied against you retroactively. For instance, 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 reside 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 Selma, Alabama Attorney Help?

If you find yourself facing zoning or other land use issues, it's critical to have good legal advice. A reliable Selma, Alabama attorney will help you work within the law to ensure that you are as free as possible to make the use of your land that you want.

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