Whether it is for your home or your business, if you own property, you probably have certain expectations about what you can do with it. It is also likely that you have sunk a significant amount of money into the property for just that purpose. Therefore, what are your options when the zoning regulations of the state or local government interfere with your plans?
Zoning is a critical part of developing a municipality. For the safety, well-being and economic health of a community, a government may place restrictions on how property owners can use land or buildings in certain areas. When those restrictions conflict with your plans for your property, you could be facing a fight with the zoning board that may include a lawsuit.
Understanding your options
Perhaps an existing zoning restriction or a change in the ordinance interferes with the success of your business. On the other hand, maybe you are a resident who wants to prevent a business from changing the zoning laws in your neighborhood. In either case, you must approach the zoning board to defend your side of the issue. This could include asking the zoning board to permit continued nonconforming use of the property, or seeking a variance or permit to use the property in a way that violates zoning laws.
When you have a zoning dispute, you can expect to do the following:
- Request a hearing before the zoning board
- Present evidence to support the necessity or benefit of the change you request
- Listen to the opposing side, experts and others who have a stake in the issue
- Be prepared to take your case to the next level if the zoning board denies your request
The next level could include filing a lawsuit, so you should know in advance what is at stake for you. While a zoning board hearing might be an informal gathering, taking the matter to court carries much more weight. You may have to prove that the government has infringed on your rights as a property owner, or you might need to show evidence that the process for adopting the zoning ordinance was illegitimate to begin with.
Know your options
Challenging and changing zoning laws can be complicated and time-consuming. Both sides will likely have strong reasons for defending their opinions and a variety of supporters backing them. Additionally, the zoning laws and resolution processes in most localities can be confusing for anyone who is not familiar with them. Having experienced legal counsel is critical when dealing with complex zoning disputes.