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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in California
The laws controlling how land can and cannot be used in Benicia, California 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.
Local governments have numerous different reasons for enacting zoning laws, ranging from ensuring that residential areas are peaceful and quiet, to safeguarding property values. For instance, most people wouldn't buy a home in a neighborhood where they knew it was possible for a neighbor to turn their house into a factory.
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 Benicia, California's Zoning Laws?
You have quite a few options if you find that a planned or prevailing use of your property breaks Benicia, California's zoning regulations.
First of all, and most simply, the owner could just fix the violation. If the violation isn't very substantial, and fixing it wouldn't cost very much, this is likely the best and simplest option.
Of course, just fixing a zoning violation isn't always inexpensive or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For instance, you might have just undertaken a substantial remodeling of your home, and later found out that some small part of it technically doesn't conform to Benicia, California'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 quite 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 complete 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. Usually, these new regulations cannot be utilized 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 Benicia, California 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 Benicia, California 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.