There is a constant push and pull between property owners who want to use their land in the way that they see fit and governmental bodies that are tasked with promoting the welfare and safety of the public.
One way that the government attempts to accomplish its goal is through the use of zoning ordinances. However, zoning ordinances are treated as a one-size-fits-all proposition. Conflict can arise when a property owner wants to use their land in a way that doesn’t mesh with the local ordinance. In these cases, the property owner must seek an administrative remedy to help resolve the issue.
Administrative remedies must be exhausted before going to court
In general, before a property owner can challenge a zoning ordinance in court, they must exhaust all administrative remedies. Exceptions may be made if the ordinance is being challenged as per se unconstitutional. However, these types of cases are exceedingly rare. Some of the possible administrative remedies available to landowners include:
- Variance: A variance is granted in situations where enforcing the ordinance would result in unnecessary hardship. The variance must also consider surrounding properties. If the variance would significantly affect neighboring lands, it’s unlikely to be granted.
- Amendment: You could ask the zoning board to amend the ordinance to allow for a rezoning of your property. This is typical in cases involving spot zoning.
- Permit: A zoning board may grant a property owner a special permit to use the property in a way that would otherwise conflict with the ordinance.
If all of your pleas for administrative relief have been denied, your last option is to file a lawsuit challenging the ordinance. You should work closely with a legal professional throughout this process. Doing so will help ensure that your interests are protected at every turn.