Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in Pennsylvania
Johnstown, Pennsylvania has laws which control how individual parcels of land can be used, and how they cannot. These rules aren't always simple, and this article should serve as an introduction to some of the most frequent issues that homeowners might face, though it is not meant to turn a layperson into an expert.
"Zoning" refers to a set of laws and regulations which state what use can be made of land in different parts of a city or county. Typically, localities are divided up into "zones," which are designated for particular categories of use, such as single-family residence, business, manufacturing, etc.
Local governments have various 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 don't exist just to protect residential use - it also protects individuals 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 preventing legal disputes.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Johnstown, Pennsylvania
Suppose you find that some condition on your land is in violation of Johnstown, Pennsylvania's zoning laws. In cases like this, you have quite a few avenues.
Initially, and perhaps most evidently, you can correct the violation. If the violation is comparatively minor, and correcting it would not cost you much or be a considerable burden, this might be the best way to go.
Occasionally, however, a landowner wants to make improvements on their property which might constitute a slight violation of Johnstown, Pennsylvania's zoning laws. In this case, the owner can apply for a variance - an official agreement from the local government to not enforce a certain zoning regulation. Typically, variances are granted when the violation is extremely minor, and, enforcing the letter of the zoning law would not do much to advance its broader purpose.
Moreover, 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.
What Can A Johnstown, Pennsylvania Attorney Do?
If you are in the process of physically altering your property, you are almost sure to face some contentions having to do with local zoning laws. If you find that zoning laws are making it very hard to use your property as you see fit, you may have legal recourse, normally in the form of a variance. Of course, your chances of success in any zoning dispute will be immeasurably increased if you have the assistance of a qualified Johnstown, Pennsylvania attorney.