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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Alabama

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

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

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 Sylacauga, 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.

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 Sylacauga, Alabama Attorney Help?

If you suddenly become involved in a zoning dispute with your local government, it's imperative to seek competent legal representation. The counsel of an efficient Sylacauga, 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.

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