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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in California

The laws governing how land can and cannot be used in Clearlake, California are fairly confusing, 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 common zoning categories are single family residence, commercial, multi-unit housing, or industrial.

Local governments have several different reasons for enacting zoning laws, ranging from ensuring that residential areas are peaceful and quiet, to protecting property values. For example, 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 don't exist just to protect residential use - it also protects persons 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 avoiding legal disputes.

What if My Property Violates Clearlake, California's Zoning Laws?

If a condition on your property violates the local zoning laws of Clearlake, California, there are a few different solutions.

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 huge inconvenience, you should obviously do this.

Sometimes, however, a landowner wants to make improvements on their property which might constitute a slight violation of Clearlake, California's zoning laws. In this case, the owner can apply for a variance - an official agreement from the local government to not enforce a particular zoning regulation. Usually, variances are granted when the violation is quite minor, and, enforcing the letter of the zoning law would not do much to advance its broader purpose.

Additionally, if you have been living on your property for a long time, and made improvements on it that complied with the zoning laws in effect at the time, a new zoning law that would be violated by your current use of your property, the new law cannot be enforced against you. The U.S. Constitution bars the passage of "ex post facto," or retroactive, laws. Once the laws take effect, however, you'll have to comply with the new zoning laws with respect to any new improvements you want to make on your property.

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How Can a Clearlake, California Attorney Help?

If you are in the early stages of a major construction or remodeling project on your property, especially if it is in a residential area (where zoning laws tend to be most restrictive), you are likely to confront one zoning law issue or another. Of course, having read this article, you should now be aware that you have rights when it comes to contesting a zoning law as applied to you. While such contests do not always come out on the side of the landowner, the guidance of a knowledgeable Clearlake, California real estate attorney will greatly improve one's chances.

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