Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in Florida

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

Localities usually divide their jurisdictions into segments, referred to as "zones," on which particular types of use are permitted. For example, one area of a town might be zoned for residential use, a nearby one for commercial use, and areas on the outskirts zoned for industrial use. This practice is called "zoning."

Zoning serves many 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 substantially.

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 proficient by helping it avoid costly nuisance lawsuits.

Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Sanibel, Florida

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

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

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 normally be granted if the violation doesn't harm anyone, and enforcing Sanibel, Florida's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.

You also have considerable 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 Sanibel, Florida Attorney Do?

If you are in the process of physically altering your property, you are almost certain to face some contentions having to do with local zoning laws. If you find that zoning laws are making it very hard to use your property as you see fit, you may have legal recourse, normally in the form of a variance. Of course, your chances of success in any zoning dispute will be immeasurably increased if you have the help of a qualified Sanibel, Florida attorney.