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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in New Jersey

In Gloucester County, New Jersey, there are laws which determine what can and can't be done on certain parcels of land. These laws get pretty involved sometimes, and aren't always very accessible to laypersons. This article should serve as a good overview of these laws.

"Zoning" is the process by which a local government makes laws determining how individual pieces of land within its jurisdiction can be used. Usually, towns or cities are segmented off into "zones," each one being designated for a specific type of use. Examples of typical zoning categories are single family residence, commercial, multi-unit housing, or industrial.

Local governments have numerous different reasons for enacting zoning laws, ranging from ensuring that residential areas are peaceful and quiet, to safeguarding property values. For instance, 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.

Zoning laws generally acknowledge the necessities of things like factories, sewage treatment plants, and stockyards, but recognize that such activities shouldn't be done in residential areas.

What if My Property Violates Gloucester County, New Jersey's Zoning Laws?

Suppose you find that some condition on your land is in violation of Gloucester County, New Jersey's zoning laws. In cases like this, you have quite a few avenues.

The most discernible 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 extremely costly, this is likely the ideal way to go.

Of course, just fixing a zoning violation isn't always affordable or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For instance, 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 Gloucester County, New Jersey'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.

Furthermore, if you have been residing 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 prevailing 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.

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How Can a Gloucester County, New Jersey Attorney Help?

If you find yourself facing zoning or other land use issues, it's essential to have good legal advice. A reputable Gloucester County, New Jersey 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.

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