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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in New York

In Saratoga Springs, New York, 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 extremely accessible to laypersons. This article should serve as a good overview of these laws.

Municipal governments which practice zoning usually follow a similar scheme: the town or city is divided up into "zones," or areas in which particular types of use are permitted. For instance, the downtown area might be zoned for commercial and office use, and perhaps for large, multi-unit apartment buildings. The surrounding areas will usually be zoned for residential and small-scale commercial use, and the outskirts zoned for manufacturing and other heavy industry.

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 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 just 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.

What if My Property Violates Saratoga Springs, New York's Zoning Laws?

You have quite a few options if you find that a planned or prevailing use of your property breaks Saratoga Springs, New York's zoning regulations.

It should be discernible 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 Saratoga Springs, New York's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.

Furthermore, if the zoning laws governing your property have changed, and some aspect of it is now violating the new rules, these changes can typically not be enforced against you, because it would be unfair to apply a new law retroactively.

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How Can a Saratoga Springs, New York Attorney Help?

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 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 seasoned Saratoga Springs, New York real estate attorney will greatly improve one's chances.

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