Real Estate Zoning Laws

Real estate zoning laws in the United States are the collective of laws, set by each individual state for their own territory, concerning the land usage within that state. Under the police power rights given to states in the Constitution, each individual state is free to enforce, regulate, and codify land use, through real estate zoning laws, while keeping the tenets of safety, morality, security, and public welfare in mind. Within the state-level scope of real estate zoning laws, local governments and municipalities may also, under authority from the state government, exercise a strategy and plan for the private real property in their jurisdiction as well.

The first real estate zoning laws that came to fruition in the United States occurred in New York City in 1916 in response to the construction of a well-known skyscraper at the time. Following suit, many states across the nation adopted, almost verbatim at times, the real estate zoning laws set forth in New York City in 1916. Inevitably, the constitutionality of real estate zoning laws came into question all the way up to the level of the Supreme Court. In the 1926 case of Village of Euclid, Ohio v. Amber Realty Co, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of real estate zoning laws exercised by state governments and their subordinate municipalities, cities, towns, and localities. Land and real property that is under federal government domain and ownership is not generally subject to the local or state real estate zoning laws.

In practice, zoning laws will separate businesses or residences considered to be incompatible when juxtaposed to one another. Additionally, cities and states will regulate and protect local businesses and landmarks through the use of zoning laws to prohibit the construction of additional real property near or in the jurisdiction of intended protection. Aside from restricting what can be built, constructed, or developed on a given real estate lot, zoning laws may also seek to regulate the types of activities and functions that a certain real estate lot serves.

Some of the common labels property fall under in real estate zoning laws includes:

  • Industrial real estate
  • Commercial real estate
  • Municipal or public real estate
  • Recreational real estate
  • Agricultural real estate
  • Open space lots
  • Residential real estate

In addition to the types of activities allowed in a certain real estate zone, real estate zoning laws will regulate other aspects of a property including the density of the area, the location and amount of space of the buildings on property, and the availability of parking on the premise. Even factors such as the proportion of landscaped area, building space, and parking space must be abided by developers and builders according to real estate zoning laws.

Real estate zoning laws cater to specific, unique areas in almost all cases. Likewise, a real estate zoning dispute can arise from a number of factors, which in some instances, can be resolved through variances. Variances are granted by zoning law authorities to a property owner, which allows the property owner to exist outside the scope of the local real estate zoning laws in regards to specific items.

Some of the most common claims of property owners seeking a variance include:

  • Offering the least intrusive solution
  • Suggesting the violation does not alter the image of an area
  • Variance needed for a reasonable use of property
  • Zoning laws promote an unreasonable hardship

In these events, property owners seek a variance in order to prevent a regulatory taking, which is when government zoning regulations essentially limit a property owner from effectively implementing their real estate. In essence, but not in title or deed, the government zoning regulations will disallow a property owner from implementing a strategy on a given property. For this reason, the process of seeking variances is essential to vitality of a myriad of real estate related purchases, developments, and investments.

Is your real estate development restricted by real estate zoning laws? Contact a real estate lawyer right away to begin seeking alternatives or variance for your property today.

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