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Zoning and Variance Forms

How to Deal With Zoning Restrictions

A new development is most likely to harm or cause inconvenience to existing residents or buildings. In order to curtail such disturbances, every area issues zoning laws. Zoning regulations classify land as suitable for residential, industrial, or commercial use. The regulations also detail the kind of construction that can be carried out on lands, such as single homes or high-rise apartments, their permissible heights, permissible stretch of landscaping or paving, etc.

Exceptions to zoning regulations are allowed, but there is a specific procedure necessary for granting such variances. A variance is generally not allowed in order to ensure that allegations relating to spot zoning do not arise. Sometimes existing buildings are exempted from new zoning codes by inserting a grandfather clause. For example, an immediate change to a land zoning regulation might cause many existing lands to be automatically in violation. It might not make sense to penalize owners of the land or ask them to rectify the defect. In such cases, the government inserts a grandfather clause into the new regulation, allowing such lands to continue to be under the purview of the old regulation. Thus, a grandfather clause prevents inconvenience caused to existing buildings because of sudden change in zoning laws by allowing them to operate under preexisting laws.

The zoning code is different in every state. While some states/cities prefer rapid growth, other localities prefer to control the pace of growth. The power to issue a zoning ordinance actually vests with state governments; however municipalities and counties also exercise this power.

Before purchasing a property, it is advisable to understand the current and future zoning plans of the locality so that you get a clear idea of the type of construction you will be permitted to carry out after purchase. If the locality's zoning restrictions have classified the lot as commercial, you will not be able to construct a house there. You can refer to your city's official website to get information about city planning. The websites also include a zoning map for the city that will help you get an idea of each lot's boundary. The maps are also updated regularly.


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