Land Use and Zoning Law

Zoning is the term used for designating permitted uses of certain parcels of land by local governments. The word is largely self-explanatory: the local government will designate various zones for different uses of land, such as industrial, agricultural, commercial, and residential. Zoning is also frequently used to designate the types of buildings that can be erected in a particular area, such as high density housing, highrises, maximum height restrictions, etc.

The primary philosophy behind zoning regulations is to separate different, incompatible property uses. For example, keeping large, smoke producing factories away from residential neighborhoods. However, in many instances, variances, or exceptions to the zoning rules, are possible. For example, a small residential variance might be granted to allow for a home in an industrial zone to house the night watchman. Usually, variances are granted because of some perceived hardship caused by the particular nature of the property in question or to satisfy a unique need that is not otherwise against the public interests.

Generally, in urban areas, zoning will be divided five major categories: residential, mixed residential-commercial, commercial, industrial, and special (e.g., power plants, sports complexes, airports, shopping malls etc.). Often, these categories will also have a number of sub-categories. For example, within the commercial category there may be separate zones for small-retail, large retail, office use, lodging and others, while industrial may be subdivided into heavy manufacturing, light assembly and warehouse uses.

Of course, zoning laws are not without their critics or misuse. Along with potential property right infringements, zoning has also been criticized as a means to promote social and economic segregation through exclusion. By improper use of various land-use restrictions, such as maximum density requirements, municipalities are able to artificially maintain high housing costs, increasing the tax base while effectively excluding lower income groups.

If you have questions about zoning, land-use, obtaining variances, or fighting government sponsored housing segregation, the resources below will help. As always, there is no substitute for the advice of a local, qualified attorney, and we also offer resources for finding some of the best qualified attorneys in your area.

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Articles on Related to Land Use and Zoning

  • Rowland Factors Used in California Real Estate Disputes
    The Rowland Factors in real estate conflicts may provide the claim with a means of limiting the possible liability in premises disputes. When involving the public sidewalk and a person crossing the street, the person that owns the land may not become responsible for any injury that occurs with invitees granted access into the home once he or she leaves.
  • Deed Mistakes: The Impact on a Chain of Title
    Any type of deed mistake could lead to utter disaster in the chain of title for real estate deals, sales and transactions for the owner or potential buyer. Unfortunately, closing a real estate sale does not stop any possible problems that may arise with the title, and it is crucial to resolve any of these issues with all due haste before the buyer loses it all.
  • Can I Sell a Timeshare?
    Before the owner of a timeshare interest purchases part of the property rights, it is best to read the contract fully, as some of these have specific selling conditions only. However, once the sale is complete, the owner may have the option to sell his or her interest in the building to anyone, certain individuals or to others that have the same property interests.
  • Beware of Timeshare Resale Scams
    From fraudulent claims of what the property is and where to scams of various individuals selling no actual building, it is important for buyers to know what is sold and to check out the building before the purchase. This may prevent any timeshare resale scams, and the victims may band together to seek legal remedies.
  • Crowdfunding Real Estate Ventures
    Crowdfunding is the new innovative way for an average person to seek peer-to-peer lending or investing funds for various projects. These methods may combine with older or dissimilar processes in real estate ventures to provide million-dollar projects for those with these funds and individuals that are unable to bring that kind of money to a real estate investment without help.
  • Ground Leases to Retain Family Ownership Interests
    Leases are necessary to ensure that a person owns a parcel of land for the period of the lease agreement which is a legal binding contract. In certain leases, the tenant must build his or her property assets, and then at the end of the lease term, all rights of ownership then transfer to the landlord unless it is a ground lease which keeps the possession of assets in the family.
  • Higher Level of Scrutiny Directed at Restrictive Covenants
    Restrictive covenants in sales, purchases and running of businesses are being scrutinized with more attention to how employees are affected and what restrictions are needed by the courts with the employers. Some covenants cause changes to the operations in a company, and these could harm employees when non-competition and nondisclosure covenants are used inappropriately.
  • Talk to a Real Estate Lawyer before Renting Out a Private Residence
    Private residences may be riddled with issues that require certain ordinances and regulationsí satisfaction before it may be rented to the public. When initiating a home business through real estate owned by a private citizen, it is crucial that a real estate lawyer is hired to ensure the project is valid, legal and free of various complications.
  • Creative Contract Provisions to Consider in Real Estate Purchase
    When purchasing real estate, there are often provisions attached that require the buyer or seller to perform certain actions. When these items are more creative, they could lead to beneficial conditions or negative impacts to either party when the arrangement has finalized.
  • Fence Disputes with Neighbors
    When neighbors have disputes with each other over fences, the matter may lead to the courtroom with a dispute over the land and perimeter boundaries. It is important to resolve these matters quickly and with a calm demeanor so that costly litigation is not the end result.
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    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Real Estate including: construction law, eminent domain, foreclosure, homeowners association, land use and zoning, landlord and tenant law, property law, property management.

Land Use and Zoning - US

  • Land Use Law - Overview

    Today, federal, state, and local governments regulate growth and development through statutory law. The majority of controls on land, however, stem from actions of private developers and individuals. Three typical situations involving such private entities and the court system are: suits brought by one neighbor against another; suits brought by a public official against a neighboring landowner on behalf of the public; and suits involving individuals who share ownership of a particular parcel of land. In these settings judicial determination and enforcement of private land-use arrangements can not only reinforce public regulation but achieve forms and levels of control zoning cannot.

  • Land Use, Planning, and Zoning Law Resource Guide - Cleveland-Marshall College of Law

    Besides zoning and planning materials, you may want to look at materials dealing with property law in general, environmental law, fair housing, municipal and local government law.

  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to integrate environmental values into their decision making processes by considering the environmental impacts of their proposed actions and reasonable alternatives to those actions.

  • The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, As Amended

    The goal of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which established the ACHP in 1966, is to have federal agencies act as responsible stewards of our nation's resources when their actions affect historic properties. The ACHP is the only entity with the legal responsibility to encourage federal agencies to factor historic preservation into federal project requirements.

  • Zoning Law - Wikipedia

    Zoning is a device of land use regulation used by local governments in most developed countries [1][2][3]. The word is derived from the practice of designating permitted uses of land based on mapped zones which separate one set of land uses from another. Zoning may be use-based (regulating the uses to which land may be put), or it may regulate building height, lot coverage, and similar characteristics, or some combination of these.

Organizations Related to Land Use and Zoning

  • American Planning Association

    APA is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. We measure our success by the successes of our members and the communities they serve.

  • US Department of Housing and Urban Development

    HUD's mission is to increase homeownership, support community development and increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination. To fulfill this mission, HUD will embrace high standards of ethics, management and accountability and forge new partnerships--particularly with faith-based and community organizations--that leverage resources and improve HUD's ability to be effective on the community level.

  • US Department of the Interior - Bureau of Land Management

    The BLM is responsible for carrying out a variety of programs for the management and conservation, of resources on 253 million surface acres, as well as 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate, These public lands make up about 13 percent of the total land surface of the United States and more than 40 percent of all land managed by the Federal government.

Publications Related to Land Use and Zoning

  • APA - Growing Smart

    States and their local governments now have new practical tools available to help combat urban sprawl, protect farmland, promote affordable housing, and encourage redevelopment. They appear in the American Planning Association's Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook: Model Statutes for Planning and the Management of Change, 2002 Edition (Stuart Meck, FAICP, Gen. Editor). The Guidebook and its accompanying User Manual are the culmination of APA's seven-year Growing Smart project, an effort to draft the next generation of model planning and zoning legislation for the U.S.

  • Law of the Land - Land Use and Zoning - Albany Law School

    This blog, maintained by Albany Law School Associate Dean and Professor Patricia Salkin, is designed to provide a forum for the discussion of current laws, policies and decisions that affect the use of land. It highlights new court decisions, new state and federal laws and policies, and actions at the local government level that guide and/or impact land use and community development.

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