Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in Pennsylvania
Washington, Pennsylvania has laws which regulate 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 prevalent 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. Typically, 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.
There are numerous different reasons that cities might engage in zoning - but it is typically designed around making cities more livable, by preventing conflicting uses from clashing with one another. After all, few people would want to live in a house next to a vacant lot, if there is a chance that somebody could decide to build a pig farm next door. The security provided by zoning laws helps maintain property values
Zoning laws usually acknowledge the necessities of things like factories, sewage treatment plants, and stockyards, but recognize that such activities shouldn't be done in residential areas.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Washington, Pennsylvania
Zoning laws are frequently quite extensive and meticulous, and it's quite possible that your property in Washington, Pennsylvania contains some minor zoning violation that you don't know about. If this happens to you, you have substantial legal protections.
The most apparent solution is to correct the problem, so your property is no longer in violation of local zoning laws. If the violation is minor, and correcting it would not be extremely costly, this is likely the ideal way to go.
What if, however, you've invested a substantial amount of time and money into making an improvement on your property, only to find that it breaks your local zoning laws in some minor way? In this case, you can apply for a variance. This is typically an exception to the zoning rules. If declining to enforce these rules would not harm anyone, and would not do much to advance the purpose of Washington, Pennsylvania's zoning laws, a variance will typically be granted.
Furthermore, 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 Washington, Pennsylvania Attorney Do?
If you are in the process of physically altering your property, you are almost sure to face some concerns having to do with local zoning laws. If you find that zoning laws are making it very challenging to use your property as you see fit, you may have legal recourse, typically 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 Washington, Pennsylvania attorney.