Phillips & Angley

Understanding zoning law basics

There are a variety of important things to know and understand about zoning laws, especially because of the significant impact they have on the property rights of landowners. Zoning laws can sometimes be technical and complex but that does not diminish the importance of understanding what they are.

Zoning laws generally regulate the use and development of land which is why it is so crucial to be familiar with zoning regulations and their impacts. Land use and zoning regulations are used to divide cities and towns into residential, commercial and industrial areas and they are designed to keep those areas fairly uniform. Zoning laws are typically detailed and impact many aspects of the owner's use of the property.

Zoning regulations may address requirements associated with the types of buildings permitted; the nature of the structures and out buildings including size, height and number; the number of rooms permitted in the buildings; setbacks, boundaries and other restrictions; and the location of utility lines. Because zoning laws can seem particular and even intrusive at times, it is helpful for property owners to thoroughly acquaint themselves with their local zoning laws.

When a zoning regulation proves to be problematic, there may be options to consider such as a request for a variance or asserting a prior non-conforming use. It is useful for property owners troubled by the impact of a zoning regulation on their property, or a property they are considering purchasing, to understand the legal tools in their toolbox to help them address zoning-related concerns and challenges that may come up.

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