Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in Virginia
Salem, Virginia has a fairly considerable number of laws that dictate how specific plots of real estate can and cannot be used, and what can and can't be built on them, and these laws aren't always easy to follow. This article won't make you an authority on the subject, but should introduce you to some of the most critical concepts in zoning law.
"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. Usually, localities are divided up into "zones," which are designated for specific categories of use, such as single-family residence, business, manufacturing, etc.
Zoning serves various different purposes - but it its general one is to increase or preserve property values by ensuring that conflicting uses don't result in legal disputes. Obviously, if you bought a house in a residential neighborhood, and your neighbor could just convert his property into a steel mill, your property's value as a residential lot would decrease considerably.
Zoning laws don't exist just to protect residential use - it also protects persons 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 preventing legal disputes.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Salem, Virginia
Zoning laws are frequently quite extensive and meticulous, and it's quite possible that your property in Salem, Virginia contains some minor zoning violation that you don't know about. If this happens to you, you have substantial legal protections.
First of all, and most simply, the owner could just fix the violation. If the violation isn't very substantial, and fixing it wouldn't cost very much, this is likely the best and simplest option.
However, it isn't always practical or affordable to correct a minor violation of a zoning law. For instance, suppose you have just spent a large amount of money and effort remodeling a house to turn it into your dream home. You thought you were in total compliance with local zoning laws when you did this, but find out that there is some small, technical violation of Salem, Virginia's zoning laws. In these cases, you have recourse in the form of a variance. You are entitled to petition the local zoning board to grant you a variance, which is an official decision not to apply a certain provision of a zoning law to a single violation. These aren't always granted, but usually have to be granted if the violation doesn't interfere with anyone else's use of their property, and doesn't thwart the purposes of local zoning laws.
Moreover, zoning ordinances cannot be applied against you retroactively. For instance, suppose you built a 3-story house on your property, and your property was zoned to allow 3-story houses to be built at the time of construction. And then, years later, the area you reside in is re-zoned, to only allow 2-story houses. Can the local government force you to remove a whole level of your house? Of course not. Applying a law retroactively is unconstitutional. On the other hand, any future changes you want to make to your property will have to comply with the applicable zoning ordinance as it is currently written.
What Can A Salem, Virginia Attorney Do?
If you suddenly become involved in a zoning dispute with your local government, it's imperative to seek competent legal representation. The counsel of an efficient Salem, Virginia real estate attorney can make it much easier for you to act within the law to use your own property as you wish, or at least be as free as possible to make improvements to your land.