How does zoning affect construction?

The Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution grant you certain rights as a property owner. For example, you can grant easements on the property, subdivide it, control access to it and build on it. However, zoning ordinances can place limits on your property rights, especially in regard to construction. The local planning commission can determine the use to which you must put your land and deny you building permits if you do not conform to zoning in your proposed construction plans.

Zoning restrictions can seem onerous but, according to SF Gate, they exist for the benefit of everyone in the community. Furthermore, if you run afoul of a zoning restriction in your proposed construction project, you may be able to appeal the decision.

How did zoning come to be?

The early 20th century saw the construction of the Equity Building in New York City. The building was so tall that it cast a shadow over neighboring property that covered seven acres. In response to the loss of property value that resulted, the city passed a zoning resolution requiring that new buildings comply with setback and height requirements. The Supreme Court upheld the government’s authority to impose zoning regulations 10 years later.

What if you disagree with the zoning decision?

If you receive a zoning decision that is unfavorable to your proposed construction project, you may still have options for proceeding with it. You may be able to obtain a conditional use permit. This would impose special conditions that you would have to meet but would allow you to use the land as you wish. Another option is to seek an exception to existing zoning law by applying for a variance. You can argue your case with the board of zoning appeals by filing a claim. A lawsuit is generally not the first recommended course of action due to the time and expense involved, but it is an option if all else fails.

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