Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in Virginia
Arlington County, Virginia 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.
Municipal governments which practice zoning normally follow a similar scheme: the town or city is divided up into "zones," or areas in which particular types of use are permitted. For instance, the downtown area might be zoned for commercial and office use, and perhaps for large, multi-unit apartment buildings. The surrounding areas will normally be zoned for residential and small-scale commercial use, and the outskirts zoned for manufacturing and other heavy industry.
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 Arlington County, Virginia
Suppose you find that some condition on your land is in violation of Arlington County, Virginia's zoning laws. In cases like this, you have quite a few avenues.
The most evident 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.
But what happens if you've invested a large amount of effort and money into improving your land, and you later discover that you've committed some relatively minor zoning violation? You are generally entitled to seek what is known as a "variance" in these cases. A variance is simply when your local government makes a small exception to the zoning rules to accommodate a small violation that would be difficult to fix. A variance will typically be granted if the violation doesn't harm anyone, and enforcing Arlington County, Virginia's zoning laws to the letter would not, in this case, advance their purposes.
You are also protected if your land is currently in complete compliance with local zoning regulations, but the area where your land sits is re-zoned, and your property is suddenly not in compliance with the new zoning regulations. Usually, these new regulations cannot be utilized to force you to change existing conditions on your property. No laws can be applied retroactively, under the U.S. Constitution. Of course, if you make any improvements on your land after the law changes, you'll have to comply with the new law.
What Can A Arlington County, Virginia Attorney Do?
If you are in the early stages of a major construction or remodeling project on your property, particularly if it is in a residential area (where zoning laws tend to be most restrictive), you are likely to confront 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 guidance of a reliable Arlington County, Virginia real estate attorney will greatly improve one's chances.