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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Arizona

The laws controlling how land can and cannot be used in Flagstaff, Arizona 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 don't exist just to protect residential use - it also protects people who engage in other types of use of land, by making sure that they are able to do their business, without bothering neighboring landowners, and thereby preventing legal disputes.

What if My Property Violates Flagstaff, Arizona's Zoning Laws?

Zoning laws are often quite extensive and meticulous, and it's very possible that your property in Flagstaff, Arizona 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 Flagstaff, Arizona's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.

Furthermore, 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 Flagstaff, Arizona Attorney Help?

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

With a different name, Flagstaff was named after a Ponderosa Pine flagpole made by a scouting party from Boston.  This name was given on July 4, 1876 while celebrating the United States Centennial.  Flagstaff, Arizona is home to approximately 65,870 people, and is located in northern Arizona. 

Popular attractions include the Grand Canyon National Park, Walnut Canyon National Monument, Wupatki National Monument, Barringer Crater, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell.  Obviously, Flagstaff is a nature-lover's heaven.

The economy is primarily based on lumber, railroad, and ranching.  Many large corporations have locations in Flagstaff.  Such corporations include Lowell Observatory, Nestle Purina PetCare, Walgreens, and W.L. Gore & Associates.  With so many corporations and industries, Flagstaff is home to many small law firms with excellent attorneys devoted to excellent legal service.  If need be for a large law firm, Phoenix firms are available, with attorneys always willing to make the short trip to Flagstaff.  Therefore, Flagstaff is a community that is well-served by the legal industry.

As a side note, Flagstaff is known to many because running scenes from the hit film Forrest Gump were shot there!  Overall, Flagstaff is a wonderful area rich in culture and industry. 

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