Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in Pennsylvania
Lehigh County, 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 many different reasons for enacting zoning laws, ranging from ensuring that residential areas are peaceful and quiet, to protecting property values. For example, 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.
While zoning laws appear to be geared just toward protecting residents, they also protect industry, by ensuring that they are free to conduct their business without getting caught up in the many legal disputes that would be inevitable if they were closer to a residential area.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania
If a condition on your property violates the local zoning laws of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, there are a few different solutions.
It should be clear, however, that the ideal solution is to simply fix any condition on your property which is in violation of a local zoning law. If the violation is not serious, and correcting it won't substantially interfere with your use of your property, this is probably the best course of action.
Sometimes, however, a landowner wants to make improvements on their property which might constitute a slight violation of Lehigh County, 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 particular 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.
Further, if you have been living 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 current 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 Lehigh County, Pennsylvania 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 Lehigh County, Pennsylvania real estate attorney will greatly improve one's chances.