Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in Pennsylvania
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania has laws which govern 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 common issues that homeowners might face, though it is not meant to turn a layperson into an expert.
"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 common zoning categories are single family residence, commercial, multi-unit housing, or industrial.
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 build a noisy, smelly, dirty factory on it.
Zoning laws don't exist just to protect residential use - it also protects people 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 Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
Suppose you find that some condition on your land is in violation of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania's zoning laws. In cases like this, you have quite a few options.
First, and perhaps most obviously, you can correct the violation. If the violation is relatively minor, and correcting it would not cost you much or be a significant burden, this might be the best way to go.
Of course, simply fixing a zoning violation isn't always affordable or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For example, 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 Montgomery County, Pennsylvania'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.
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 Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Attorney Do?
If you find yourself facing zoning or other land use issues, it's important to have good legal advice. A good Montgomery County, Pennsylvania 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.