Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in Iowa
The laws governing how land can and cannot be used in Polk County, Iowa are fairly complex, and can be confusing to laypersons. This should provide a basic overview.
Municipal governments which practice zoning typically follow a similar scheme: the town or city is divided up into "zones," or areas in which particular types of use are permitted. For example, the downtown area might be zoned for commercial and office use, and perhaps for large, multi-unit apartment buildings. The surrounding areas will typically be zoned for residential and small-scale commercial use, and the outskirts zoned for manufacturing and other heavy industry.
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 laws don't exist just to protect residential use - it also protects people who engage in other types of use of land, by making sure that they are able to do their business, without bothering neighboring landowners, and thereby avoiding legal disputes.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Polk County, Iowa
Suppose you find that some condition on your land is in violation of Polk County, Iowa's zoning laws. In cases like this, you have quite a few options.
It should be clear, however, that the ideal solution is to simply fix any condition on your property which is in violation of a local zoning law. If the violation is not serious, and correcting it won't significantly interfere with your use of your property, this is probably the best course of action.
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 Polk County, Iowa's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.
Also, if the zoning laws covering your property have changed, and some aspect of it is now violating the new rules, these changes can generally not be enforced against you, because it would be unfair to apply a new law retroactively.
What Can A Polk County, Iowa Attorney Do?
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 Polk County, Iowa real estate attorney will greatly improve one's chances.