In most countries, including the U.S., there are zoning laws which define how one can use one’s property. City authorities and other governments at the local level frame and implement zoning law regulations to ensure that land falling in their jurisdiction is used for the common good.
Zoning law applies to every single property irrespective of size, ownership and location. Before buying property or making any changes in your existing property, you need to first consider the zoning laws of the place and only then go ahead with your plans. Primarily, zoning laws classify land into commercial and residential. So, you cannot have a commercial building in a residential area. Other categories include industrial, recreation and agricultural.
If you are adamant on using your land for a purpose not permitted by the existing zoning law, you will have to follow a particular procedure. First, you need to issue a public notice and then have the change known as ‘variance’ approved by the concerned government agency. However, chances of opposition to such changes from interested parties including neighbors are high.
Zoning law generally places restrictions on the following:
· Facilities that need to be provided depending on the use – for instance, a commercial building will have to provide a certain minimum number of parking lots.
Many landowners find it convenient to divide the land into smaller parcels and sell them off. But zoning laws in certain places restrict such subdivisions. However, through a simple procedure, one can usually divide the land into three or four lots, but it is difficult to get approval for higher number of subdivisions.
When new zoning ordinances are passed, the building owners may find that their existing buildings do not conform to the new laws. The building may be much taller than allowed by the new law or an office may be located in an area which has now been zoned as residential. However, the owner can continue with the non-conforming use. While the office can continue to operate in the residential area, if it ceases to be an office at any time, it cannot be used for commercial purposes again.
The government agency in charge of zoning laws might permit a use which is against the zoning ordinance if particular conditions are met.