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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in California

The laws controlling how land can and cannot be used in Calistoga, California are fairly intricate, 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. Normally, 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 various 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 typically 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 Calistoga, California's Zoning Laws?

Suppose you find that some condition on your land is in violation of Calistoga, California's zoning laws. In cases like this, you have quite a few avenues.

The most noticeable solution is to correct the problem, so your property is no longer in violation of local zoning laws. If the violation is minor, and correcting it would not be extremely costly, this is likely the ideal way to go.

What if, however, you've invested a considerable amount of time and money into making an improvement on your property, only to find that it breaks your local zoning laws in some minor way? In this case, you can apply for a variance. This is basically an exception to the zoning rules. If declining to enforce these rules would not harm anyone, and would not do much to advance the purpose of Calistoga, California's zoning laws, a variance will normally be granted.

Additionally, 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 Calistoga, California Attorney Help?

If you want to make improvements to your property, apply for a variance, or contest a zoning regulation as being applied to you retroactively, you have a right to do so, including some constitutional protections. However, your chances of prevailing in a zoning disagreement will be markedly improved if you hire an accomplished Calistoga, California real estate attorney to help.

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