Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in Delaware
The laws controlling how land can and cannot be used in New Castle County, Delaware 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."
Local governments have various different reasons for enacting zoning laws, ranging from ensuring that residential areas are peaceful and quiet, to safeguarding property values. For instance, 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.
On the other hand, zoning laws recognize and attempt to accommodate the necessity of factories and other industrial activities. They just seek to ensure that such activities are conducted in a way that they don't conflict with the rights of adjacent landowners to use and enjoy their property in peace.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in New Castle County, Delaware
You have quite a few options if you find that a planned or prevailing use of your property breaks New Castle County, Delaware's zoning regulations.
Initially, and perhaps most obviously, you can correct the violation. If the violation is comparatively minor, and correcting it would not cost you much or be a significant burden, this might be the best way to go.
Of course, just fixing a zoning violation isn't always affordable or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For instance, you might have just undertaken a significant remodeling of your home, and later found out that some small part of it technically doesn't conform to New Castle County, Delaware'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 very minor, and enforcing the ordinance would be unduly burdensome and not in the public interest.
You also have significant 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.
What Can A New Castle County, Delaware Attorney Do?
If you are in the process of physically altering your property, you are almost sure to face some issues having to do with local zoning laws. If you find that zoning laws are making it very difficult to use your property as you see fit, you may have legal recourse, usually in the form of a variance. Of course, your chances of success in any zoning dispute will be immeasurably increased if you have the assistance of a qualified New Castle County, Delaware attorney.