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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in California

The laws governing how land can and cannot be used in Paso Robles, California are fairly complex, 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 particular use, such as residential homes, commercial businesses, agriculture, manufacturing, etc. This process is known as "zoning."

Zoning serves several 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 significantly.

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 Paso Robles, California's Zoning Laws?

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

First, and perhaps most obviously, you can correct the violation. If the violation is relatively minor, and correcting it would not cost you much or be a significant burden, this might be the best way to go.

However, it isn't always practical or affordable to correct a minor violation of a zoning law. For example, 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 Paso Robles, 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 particular 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.

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 Paso Robles, 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 encounter 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 assistance of a good Paso Robles, California real estate attorney will greatly improve one's chances.

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