Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in California
The laws governing how land can and cannot be used in Santa Clara County, 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 main 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.
Zoning also serves the interests of industry, as well as residents. By ensuring that there are places where heavy industry can take place, well-planned zoning regulations will ensure that industrialists are free to practice their trade, and that residents will not be disturbed by those activities, which makes industry more efficient by helping it avoid costly nuisance lawsuits.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Santa Clara County, California
If a condition on your property violates the local zoning laws of Santa Clara County, California, there are a few different solutions.
It should be discernible that the first option you should consider is to correct the violation. If doing this wouldn't cost you very much, or pose a major inconvenience, you should obviously do this.
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 usually be granted if the violation doesn't harm anyone, and enforcing Santa Clara County, California's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.
Furthermore, zoning ordinances cannot be applied against you retroactively. For example, 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 live 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.
What Can A Santa Clara County, California Attorney Do?
If you find yourself facing zoning or other land use issues, it's important to have good legal advice. A good Santa Clara County, 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.