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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in California

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

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

Zoning serves various different purposes - but it its basic 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 simply convert his property into a steel mill, your property's value as a residential lot would decrease considerably.

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 Ontario, California's Zoning Laws?

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

The most evident 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 very costly, this is likely the best way to go.

Of course, simply fixing a zoning violation isn't always inexpensive or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For example, 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 Ontario, 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.

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 Ontario, California Attorney Help?

If you find yourself facing zoning or other land use issues, it's crucial to have good legal advice. A knowledgeable Ontario, 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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Life in Ontario

Ontario, California is a city in San Bernardino County. Its current population is about 170,000 people.

For thousands of years, the area now known as Ontario was a hunting and foraging ground for the semi-nomadic Tongva band of Native Americans. People of European descent arrived when Mexican settlers began populating the area.

Ontario's early economic growth was fueled by agriculture, and tourism by wealthy Californians, who viewed the area as a health resort, and it is still a destination for people who enjoy a warm, dry climate, either for recreation or retirement.

During and after World War Two, Ontario, and many other suburbs, experienced a housing boom, thanks to the explosion of industrial activity, which significantly increased the population. Modernly, there is still some manufacturing activity in Ontario, California, which is an important part of its economy.

Owing to its diversity and relatively large population, a thriving legal community has sprung up in Ontario. Ontario, California lawyers are as diverse as the community itself, and virtually every imaginable practice area is represented. If you need legal advice or representation, an Ontario, California lawyer is a good person to ask.

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