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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Arizona
The laws controlling how land can and cannot be used in Fountain Hills, 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 Fountain Hills, Arizona's Zoning Laws?
Zoning laws are often quite extensive and meticulous, and it's very possible that your property in Fountain Hills, 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 obvious 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.
Occasionally, however, a landowner wants to make improvements on their property which might constitute a slight violation of Fountain Hills, Arizona'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. Generally, variances are granted when the violation is very minor, and, enforcing the letter of the zoning law would not do much to advance its broader purpose.
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 Fountain Hills, Arizona Attorney Help?
If you find yourself facing zoning or other land use issues, it's essential to have good legal advice. A reputable Fountain Hills, 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.