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Zoning and Land Use

Historic preservation laws in many cities and states limit the right of a building owner to make changes to a building that would affect its historic character. Some restrictions may apply to just one building, while others may apply to whole neighborhoods. Historic preservation laws are not limited to old, elaborate, or famous buildings. Preservation laws have been extended to ordinary homes, in ordinary middle-class neighborhoods that are considered to have some historic or architectural significance. If you are located in a historic preservation district, you may need legal advice as to what you can or can't do on your property.

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Zoning and Land Use

Property owners are not entirely free to do whatever they want with their property. Most property is subject to government oversight on the uses to which the property may be put. It is important that property owners are familiar with these zoning and land use restrictions before they attempt any major work on their property. Contact Sanders & Parks, P.C. in Phoenix, AZ]], to schedule a consultation with an attorney who is knowledgeable in real estate law and can advise you about the restrictions that may exist on your property.

Zoning laws and regulations

Zoning laws or ordinances restrict the types of uses to which a particular piece of property may be put. While the nature of zoning restrictions vary by city, the most common type of zoning law designates property as business, residential or a combination thereof. Some cities have very strict, wide-ranging zoning laws; for example, zoning laws may also regulate fence height, prevent homeowners from keeping certain pets or parking certain types of vehicles on the street.

A property owner who wishes to use his or her property in a manner inconsistent with the zoning laws may be able to obtain a "variance." The decision as to whether to grant a variance is typically left to the sole discretion of the local zoning authority — some of which may grant such variances liberally, while others are more restrictive. A variance that does not change the essential character of an area will typically be granted. For example, if a variance to allow a small retail store to operate in an area zoned for residential use is requested, the zoning authority will likely approve the variance if a parcel on the same street is already being used for commercial purposes, any impact on traffic flow in the neighborhood would be minimal and nearby property owners do not object to the variance request.

In some extreme cases, the courts have held that zoning laws are so restrictive as to amount to a "taking" of the owner's property, allowing the owner to make a claim for compensation form the governmental authority that made the zoning law.

Zoning is a complicated area of the law, subject to numerous technical rules and special practices. Non-compliance with these rules may result in delay, or even the dismissal, of a variance application, often at a substantial loss of time and money. Before you apply for a variance, contact Sanders & Parks, P.C. in Phoenix, AZ, to schedule a consultation with an attorney who is experienced in zoning and land use matters.

Land use law and regulation

Many property owners are under the mistaken belief that once they receive a favorable zoning decision, they can do as they please. Zoning is only one part of a very complex picture. Many communities have comprehensive plans that limit the way land may be used in the community. These plans will often restrict the type and size of buildings that may be built in certain areas. The plan may also regulate the placement of a building on a lot, and may even require prior approval of a building's appearance or design to ensure its conformity with other buildings in an area.

These special requirements are in addition to the normal zoning laws. A parcel of land may be zoned for residential uses only, but that does not mean that any type of home may be built there. The community may have imposed further requirements for square footage, lot size and design.

Property owners should also be aware of any environmental restrictions. In many areas, a property owner will not be allowed to damage or destroy a wetland or other protected area that may be on or adjacent to the property. A property owner may also be required to clean up hazardous materials and/or contaminated soil left by a previous owner of the property.

It is important to know, in advance, what restrictions may limit the use of your land. Ignoring a restriction can subject you to legal penalties and new legal hurdles. It is best to know what you may or may not do, before you start a project.

Contact a zoning and land use lawyer

Zoning laws and land use restrictions can be a source of great frustration and expense for a property owner. Knowing the restrictions in advance, and being prepared to deal with those restrictions, can minimize the frustration. Before you embark on a construction project, contact Sanders & Parks, P.C. in Phoenix, AZ, to schedule a consultation with an experienced land use and zoning law attorney.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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