Zoning Planning & Land Use Law in Virginia
Williamsburg, Virginia has a fairly large number of laws that dictate how particular 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 essential 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. Generally, localities are divided up into "zones," which are designated for certain categories of use, such as single-family residence, business, manufacturing, etc.
Zoning serves several different purposes - but it its major 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 significantly.
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 numerous legal disputes that would be inevitable if they were closer to a residential area.
Possible Outcomes of Boundary and Title Disputes in Williamsburg, Virginia
You have quite a few options if you find that a planned or prevailing use of your property breaks Williamsburg, Virginia's zoning regulations.
It should be clear, however, that the ideal solution is to just fix any condition on your property which is in violation of a local zoning law. If the violation is not significant, and correcting it won't significantly interfere with your use of your property, this is likely the ideal course of action.
What if, however, you've invested a significant 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 essentially 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 Williamsburg, Virginia's zoning laws, a variance will usually 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 Williamsburg, 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 encounter 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 assistance of a reputable Williamsburg, Virginia real estate attorney will greatly improve one's chances.