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Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, 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" is the process by which a local government makes laws determining how individual pieces of land within its jurisdiction can be used. Normally, 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.

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.

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 various legal disputes that would be inevitable if they were closer to a residential area.

Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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

First of all, and most simply, the owner could just fix the violation. If the violation isn't very considerable, and fixing it wouldn't cost very much, this is likely the best and simplest option.

Of course, just fixing a zoning violation isn't always modest or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For instance, you might have just undertaken a considerable remodeling of your home, and later found out that some small part of it technically doesn't conform to Pittsburgh, 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 extremely minor, and enforcing the ordinance would be unduly burdensome and not in the public interest.

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.

What Can A Pittsburgh, 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 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania attorney.

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Life in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is known as "The Steel City" for the extensive steel trade that fed the city's economy through the 1970s. Some folks know Pittsburgh as "The City of Bridges" because it's positioned at the confluence of the Allegheny River and Monogahela River. The Allegeheny and Monogahela Rivers combine to create the Ohio River. The three waterways create the triangular shape of downtown Pittsburgh. There are more than 450 bridges within Pittsburgh city limits. Today, Pittsburgh is home to a number of high tech companies that specialize in everything from robotics and biotechnology to internet startups. Pittsburgh is home to a number of corporate headquarters who are responsible for many downtown skyscrapers. Tied for the 8th most Fortune 500 companies, Pittsburgh is home to PNC Financial, U.S. Steel, H.J. Heinz Company, WESCO Internations, Mylan Labs, CONSOL Energy, PPG Industries who supply paint and optical coatings, as well as Dick's Sorting Goods who operate over 408 national retail locations. Pittsburgh is a major manufacturing city but that doesn't mean they don't have world class entertainment and culture available. The Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Museum of Art, and the ArtGardens are just a few options that locals have. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra calls Heinz Hall home. Heinz Hall also hosts a number of other concerts like Bruce Springsteen and other natural disaster aid concerts. The rap song "Black and Yellow" by Pittsburgh's Wiz Khalifa is one example of great local musicians. George Benson, Perry Como and Christina Aguilera all hail from Pittsburgh or Pitts suburbs. No wonder Pittsburgh is ranked consistently as "one of the most livable places in the United States."

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