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What does 'zoning' mean and can it be challenged?

Previous postings in this blog have discussed land zoning laws and land use requirements laid out by these laws. However, some residents of Pennsylvania may be wondering what these laws really mean, how they are established and how they are enforced.

According to Findlaw, zoning laws were adopted by one state in 1916 and since then nearly every major urban area within the United States has adopted similar regulations. These laws most often concern regulating how real estate is used and developed within certain urban areas.

Generally, zoning regulations divide land into commercial, residential and industrial zones. These are the initial general restrictions but within these general land use regulations there are often more detailed and specific regulations landowners must follow.

In addition to controlling the current existing buildings, land use and zoning regulations also exist to guide and control future developments.

At first glance, these regulations may seem relatively straightforward. However, they often restrict landowners from developing their property in ways that they often desire to change them.

Therefore, land use and zoning regulations actually often raise quite a bit of controversy. These issues have seen numerous days in court and these courts have devised rules specific to these regulations.

First of all, courts have determined that a zoning regulation is permissible and legal if it is reasonable rather than arbitrary. It also must have a substantial and reasonable relation to public safety, comfort, health, welfare and morals. Finally, the means must be necessary in order to accomplish the ultimate purpose.

There are certain types of zoning that are not permitted and therefore illegal. In addition, landowners can raise challenges to zoning regulations. If a landowner has recently come into issues regarding zoning of their land it can be helpful to speak with an attorney who is experienced in this area of law.

Source: Findlaw, "Land Use and Zoning Basics," Accessed on July 20, 2014

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