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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in Arizona

The laws governing how land can and cannot be used in Tempe, Arizona are fairly complex, 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 common 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 also serves the interests of industry, as well as residents. By ensuring that there are places where heavy industry can take place, well-planned zoning regulations will ensure that industrialists are free to practice their trade, and that residents will not be disturbed by those activities, which makes industry more proficient by helping it avoid costly nuisance lawsuits.

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

You have quite a few options if you find that a planned or current use of your property violates Tempe, Arizona's zoning regulations.

First, and perhaps most obviously, you can correct the violation. If the violation is relatively minor, and correcting it would not cost you much or be a significant burden, this might be the best way to go.

Of course, simply fixing a zoning violation isn't always affordable or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For example, you might have just undertaken a significant remodeling of your home, and later found out that some small part of it technically doesn't conform to Tempe, Arizona's zoning laws. If this happens to you, you can apply to your local zoning board for what's known as a "variance." This is simply a decree by the zoning board that the particular rule your property violates no longer applies. The Supreme Court has held that local zoning boards have to grant variances when the violation is very minor, and enforcing the ordinance would be unduly burdensome and not in the public interest.

You are also protected if your land is currently in full compliance with local zoning regulations, but the area where your land sits is re-zoned, and your property is suddenly not in compliance with the new zoning regulations. Generally, these new regulations cannot be used to force you to change existing conditions on your property. No laws can be applied retroactively, under the U.S. Constitution. Of course, if you make any improvements on your land after the law changes, you'll have to comply with the new law.

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How Can a Tempe, Arizona Attorney Help?

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

Tempe is located in Maricopa County in Arizona.  It has a population of about 175,000 and was incorporated in the year 1894.  Its name comes from the "Vale of Tempe" located in Greece.  Tempe is known for being the headquarters for several prominent corporations.

The economy of Tempe is comprised mainly of large corporations which have their headquarters in the city.  For example, companies such as U.S. Airways and Insight Enterprises have their executive headquarters in Tempe.  Cold Stone Creamery, a popular ice cream franchise, was originally located in the city.  In addition, Tempe is home to Arizona State University at Tempe, where the Insight Bowl is held every year.

Residents of Tempe enjoy great performance in the arts at the Gammage Auditorium and the Tempe Center for the Arts.  Also, visitors frequently enjoy shopping in Tempe's retail district, located at Mills Avenue and at Arizona Mills, one of the largest shopping malls in the state.  The Tempe Marketplace is where you can go for excellent outdoor festivals and concerts.

Lawyers in Tempe, Arizona typically file legal claims at the Tempe Municipal Court.  The municipal court handles a wide range of legal issues and ordinance violations.  Tempe lawyers also participate in a variety of exciting civic and community service events. 

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