Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in Maryland
The laws that regulate how land can be used, and what structures can be built on individual pieces of land in Howard County, Maryland 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.
Localities normally 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 create a noisy, smelly, dirty factory on it.
Zoning laws don't exist just to protect residential use - it also protects persons who engage in other types of use of land, by making sure that they are able to do their business, without bothering neighboring landowners, and thereby avoiding legal disputes.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Howard County, Maryland
Suppose you find that some condition on your land is in violation of Howard County, Maryland's zoning laws. In cases like this, you have quite a few options.
First, and perhaps most apparently, you can correct the violation. If the violation is relatively minor, and correcting it would not cost you much or be a substantial 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 typically be granted if the violation doesn't harm anyone, and enforcing Howard County, Maryland's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.
Moreover, zoning ordinances cannot be applied against you retroactively. For example, 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 live 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 Howard County, Maryland Attorney Do?
If you find yourself facing zoning or other land use issues, it's crucial to have good legal advice. A knowledgeable Howard County, Maryland attorney will help you work within the law to ensure that you are as free as possible to make the use of your land that you want.