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 Westminster, Massachusetts can sometimes be a bit perplexing. This article will not make its reader an expert, but should serve as a good introduction to the subject.
Localities typically divide their jurisdictions into segments, referred to as "zones," on which particular types of use are permitted. For instance, 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."
The purpose of zoning is to preserve property values, and make towns and cities more livable. For instance, without zoning laws, a company might be able to purchase a vacant lot next to your house and build a noisy, smelly, dirty factory on it.
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 Westminster, Massachusetts
You have quite a few options if you find that a planned or prevailing use of your property breaks Westminster, Massachusetts'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.
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 Westminster, Massachusetts's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.
You are also protected if your land is currently in complete compliance with local zoning regulations, but the area where your land sits is re-zoned, and your property is suddenly not in compliance with the new zoning regulations. Generally, these new regulations cannot be utilized to force you to change existing conditions on your property. No laws can be applied retroactively, under the U.S. Constitution. Of course, if you make any improvements on your land after the law changes, you'll have to comply with the new law.
What Can A Westminster, Massachusetts Attorney Do?
If you are in the early stages of a major construction or remodeling project on your property, particularly 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 reputable Westminster, Massachusetts real estate attorney will greatly improve one's chances.