Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in Indiana

The laws that regulate how land can be used, and what structures can be built on individual pieces of land in St. Joseph County, Indiana can sometimes be a bit confusing. This article will not make its reader an expert, but should serve as a good introduction to the subject.

"Zoning" refers to a set of laws and regulations which state what use can be made of land in different parts of a city or county. Usually, localities are divided up into "zones," which are designated for specific categories of use, such as single-family residence, business, manufacturing, etc.

There are a lot of rationales and purposes for zoning laws. In general, they're based in common sense: chemical plants shouldn't be constructed next to daycare centers, pig farms should not be constructed in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and other simple principles similar to that. Zoning laws, by keeping conflicting land uses separate, make life easier for all parties, ensuring that property values will be preserved, and that necessary industries can be conducted where they will not bother anyone.

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 feasible by helping it prevent costly nuisance lawsuits.

Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in St. Joseph County, Indiana

If a condition on your property breaks the local zoning laws of St. Joseph County, Indiana, there are a few different solutions.

The most noticeable solution is to correct the problem, so your property is no longer in violation of local zoning laws. If the violation is minor, and correcting it would not be extremely costly, this is likely the ideal 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 typically be granted if the violation doesn't harm anyone, and enforcing St. Joseph County, Indiana's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.

Moreover, zoning ordinances cannot be applied against you retroactively. For instance, 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 reside 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 St. Joseph County, Indiana Attorney Do?

If you want to make improvements to your property, apply for a variance, or contest a zoning regulation as being applied to you retroactively, you have a right to do so, including some constitutional protections. However, your chances of prevailing in a zoning conflict will be markedly improved if you hire an efficient St. Joseph County, Indiana real estate attorney to help.