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 Worcester County, Massachusetts can sometimes be a bit convoluted. This article will not make its reader an expert, but should serve as a good introduction to the subject.
Localities usually 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 construct 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 done 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 Worcester County, Massachusetts
You have quite a few options if you find that a planned or current use of your property violates Worcester County, Massachusetts's zoning regulations.
It should be obvious that the first option you should consider is to correct the violation. If doing this wouldn't cost you very much, or pose a massive inconvenience, you should obviously do this.
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 normally be granted if the violation doesn't harm anyone, and enforcing Worcester County, Massachusetts's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.
You also have considerable 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 Worcester County, Massachusetts 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 face 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 help of a brilliant Worcester County, Massachusetts real estate attorney will greatly improve one's chances.