Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in Massachusetts
The laws that regulate how land can be used, and what structures can be built on individual pieces of land in Falmouth, Massachusetts can sometimes be a bit intricate. This article will not make its reader an expert, but should serve as a good introduction to the subject.
Local governments will typically 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."
Local governments have several different reasons for enacting zoning laws, ranging from ensuring that residential areas are peaceful and quiet, to protecting property values. For example, 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 simply seek to ensure that such activities are performed 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 Falmouth, Massachusetts
If a condition on your property violates the local zoning laws of Falmouth, Massachusetts, there are a few different solutions.
The most obvious 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 very costly, this is likely the best way to go.
Of course, simply fixing a zoning violation isn't always inexpensive or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For example, you might have just undertaken a substantial remodeling of your home, and later found out that some small part of it technically doesn't conform to Falmouth, Massachusetts'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 quite minor, and enforcing the ordinance would be unduly burdensome and not in the public interest.
Additionally, if you have been living on your property for a long time, and made improvements on it that complied with the zoning laws in effect at the time, a new zoning law that would be violated by your current use of your property, the new law cannot be enforced against you. The U.S. Constitution bars the passage of "ex post facto," or retroactive, laws. Once the laws take effect, however, you'll have to comply with the new zoning laws with respect to any new improvements you want to make on your property.
What Can A Falmouth, Massachusetts Attorney Do?
If you are in the process of physically altering your property, you are almost certain to face some concerns having to do with local zoning laws. If you find that zoning laws are making it very challenging to use your property as you see fit, you may have legal recourse, typically 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 Falmouth, Massachusetts attorney.