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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in California

The laws governing how land can and cannot be used in Lakewood, California are fairly difficult, 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 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.

While zoning laws appear to be geared just toward protecting residents, they also protect industry, by ensuring that they are free to conduct their business without getting caught up in the several legal disputes that would be inevitable if they were closer to a residential area.

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

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

It should be clear, however, that the ideal solution is to simply fix any condition on your property which is in violation of a local zoning law. If the violation is not serious, and correcting it won't substantially interfere with your use of your property, this is probably the best course of action.

But what happens if you've invested a large amount of effort and money into improving your land, and you later discover that you've committed some relatively minor zoning violation? You are generally entitled to seek what is known as a "variance" in these cases. A variance is simply when your local government makes a small exception to the zoning rules to accommodate a small violation that would be difficult to fix. A variance will normally be granted if the violation doesn't harm anyone, and enforcing Lakewood, California's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.

You also have considerable protections if a zoning law changes, and you find that the land you've been living on for years is suddenly in violation of the new law. In general, zoning laws cannot apply to structures and uses which were built or commenced before the law was changed. Under the U.S. Constitution, it's not permissible for state or local governments to pass laws which have retroactive effect. You should know, however, that any future changes you make to your property will have to comply with the new zoning law.

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How Can a Lakewood, California Attorney Help?

If you are in the process of physically altering your property, you are almost certain to face some contentions having to do with local zoning laws. If you find that zoning laws are making it very hard to use your property as you see fit, you may have legal recourse, normally in the form of a variance. Of course, your chances of success in any zoning dispute will be immeasurably increased if you have the help of a qualified Lakewood, California attorney.

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