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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Alabama

The laws controlling how land can and cannot be used in Thomasville, Alabama are fairly perplexing, 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. Usually, 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 built next to daycare centers, pig farms should not be built 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 generally 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 Thomasville, Alabama's Zoning Laws?

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

It should be discernible that the first option you should consider is to correct the violation. If doing this wouldn't cost you very much, or pose a major inconvenience, you should obviously do this.

But what happens if you've invested a large amount of effort and money into improving your land, and you later discover that you've committed some relatively minor zoning violation? You are generally entitled to seek what is known as a "variance" in these cases. A variance is simply when your local government makes a small exception to the zoning rules to accommodate a small violation that would be difficult to fix. A variance will usually be granted if the violation doesn't harm anyone, and enforcing Thomasville, Alabama's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.

You also have significant protections if a zoning law changes, and you find that the land you've been living on for years is suddenly in violation of the new law. In general, zoning laws cannot apply to structures and uses which were built or commenced before the law was changed. Under the U.S. Constitution, it's not permissible for state or local governments to pass laws which have retroactive effect. You should know, however, that any future changes you make to your property will have to comply with the new zoning law.

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How Can a Thomasville, Alabama Attorney Help?

If you find yourself facing zoning or other land use issues, it's essential to have good legal advice. A reputable Thomasville, 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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