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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Alabama

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

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

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

What if, however, you've invested a substantial amount of time and money into making an improvement on your property, only to find that it breaks your local zoning laws in some minor way? In this case, you can apply for a variance. This is typically an exception to the zoning rules. If declining to enforce these rules would not harm anyone, and would not do much to advance the purpose of Southside, Alabama's zoning laws, a variance will typically be granted.

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 Southside, Alabama Attorney Help?

If you are in the process of physically altering your property, you are almost sure to face some concerns having to do with local zoning laws. If you find that zoning laws are making it very challenging to use your property as you see fit, you may have legal recourse, typically in the form of a variance. Of course, your chances of success in any zoning dispute will be immeasurably increased if you have the assistance of a qualified Southside, Alabama attorney.

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