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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in California

The laws controlling how land can and cannot be used in Lincoln, California are fairly perplexing, and can be confusing to laypersons. This should provide a basic overview.

Local governments will usually divide the city or town into sections, called "zones," each of which is designated for a specific use, such as residential homes, commercial businesses, agriculture, manufacturing, etc. This process is known as "zoning."

Zoning serves several different purposes - but it its major one is to increase or preserve property values by ensuring that conflicting uses don't result in legal disputes. Obviously, if you bought a house in a residential neighborhood, and your neighbor could just convert his property into a steel mill, your property's value as a residential lot would decrease significantly.

Zoning laws generally 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 Lincoln, California's Zoning Laws?

You have quite a few options if you find that a planned or prevailing use of your property breaks Lincoln, California's zoning regulations.

First of all, and most simply, the owner could just fix the violation. If the violation isn't very significant, and fixing it wouldn't cost very much, this is likely the best and simplest option.

However, it isn't always practical or affordable to correct a minor violation of a zoning law. For instance, suppose you have just spent a large amount of money and effort remodeling a house to turn it into your dream home. You thought you were in total compliance with local zoning laws when you did this, but find out that there is some small, technical violation of Lincoln, California's zoning laws. In these cases, you have recourse in the form of a variance. You are entitled to petition the local zoning board to grant you a variance, which is an official decision not to apply a certain provision of a zoning law to a single violation. These aren't always granted, but generally have to be granted if the violation doesn't interfere with anyone else's use of their property, and doesn't thwart the purposes of local zoning laws.

Furthermore, 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 Lincoln, California Attorney Help?

If you find yourself facing zoning or other land use issues, it's essential to have good legal advice. A reputable Lincoln, California 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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