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Navigating the maze of zoning designations

The goal of property zoning is to organize land usage in a way that's efficient and livable. For example, commercial businesses typically benefit from being close to one another, as it can bring in more traffic. Similarly, homeowners prefer to live in zones where factories cannot be built, to avoid unpleasant noises and sounds.

Zoning laws are in place to help individuals, families, businesses and the environment. However, zoning also presents issues during and after property purchases.

It is important to understand the basics of zoning law before you make a purchase. Thorough research can pull up various zoning restrictions and other nuisances. To start, there are various types of zoning designations, such as:

  • Aesthetic: Focuses on the beauty of the community, following guidelines designed to improve overall appearance and cohesiveness
  • Environmental: Protects sensitive natural regions and endangered species
  • Historic: Protects structures with historical significance
  • Rural: Used for farms and ranches, sometimes allowing horses or cattle
  • Commercial: Involves office buildings, shopping centers, hotels, warehouses and sometimes apartment complexes
  • Residential: Covers apartments, duplexes, condominiums, homes and trailer parks
  • Industrial: Usually concerns noise, dealing with businesses such as airports and manufacturing plants

Real estate developers, investors and business owners run into difficulties when zoning gets in the way of building and other projects. Therefore, land use and zoning disputes are not uncommon.

Fortunately, there are options. Landowners may pursue waivers for the intended use of the property. Otherwise, an attorney can research other legal routes, such as obtaining a zone variance or exception. Sometimes zoning is prone to changes, depending on the designation. If all else fails, litigation is available for when the stakes are high.

Environmental issues, variances and other issues with land planning use are often fixable problems. However, as always, it is beneficial to appropriately research the land before you purchase.

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