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 Williamstown, Massachusetts can sometimes be a bit complicated. 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 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."
The purpose of zoning is to preserve property values, and make towns and cities more livable. For example, without zoning laws, a company might be able to buy 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 simply 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 Williamstown, Massachusetts
You have quite a few options if you find that a planned or current use of your property violates Williamstown, Massachusetts's zoning regulations.
First, and perhaps most obviously, you can correct the violation. If the violation is relatively minor, and correcting it would not cost you much or be a significant burden, this might be the best way to go.
Of course, simply fixing a zoning violation isn't always affordable or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For example, you might have just undertaken a significant remodeling of your home, and later found out that some small part of it technically doesn't conform to Williamstown, 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 very minor, and enforcing the ordinance would be unduly burdensome and not in the public interest.
You also have significant 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 Williamstown, Massachusetts Attorney Do?
If you suddenly become involved in a zoning dispute with your local government, it's essential to seek competent legal representation. The counsel of an experienced Williamstown, Massachusetts real estate attorney can make it much easier for you to act within the law to use your own property as you wish, or at least be as free as possible to make improvements to your land.