How much say should you have over your neighbor’s use of his or her property?
That’s a thorny issue in any land use or zoning case — one that has the potential to create a lot of big rifts between neighbors.
It usually comes up when someone has asked — and been granted — permission from the zoning board or other authorities to use his or her land in a certain way that other neighbors feel is either destructive to their own property values, unsightly or simply unfair. Other times, it comes up when a neighbor simply assumes that he or she can do something without checking into the local zoning regulations.
How can you challenge your neighbor’s use of a piece of property under zoning laws?
- Determine if the issue is a violation of an existing zoning law or an issue where the neighbor has been granted an exemption to use the property in a way not normally permitted under the zoning rules.
- If it is a violation of an existing zoning law, you may be able to seek an injunction fairly easily — the neighbor is essentially in violation of the rules and you’ve now alerted zoning to the problem.
- If the neighbor has asked for an exemption and it’s been granted, you’ll have significantly more difficulty fighting the issue. At that point, experts recommend that you determine if the issue affects you alone or several property owners in the area.
- You need to show that there is some loss of value to your property caused by the exemption — one that affects only you or a few of your neighbors — but not all neighbors equally. Damages include things like excessive water drainage, diverted traffic or even increased criminal activity due to the zoning change. For example, if a tattoo parlor is given license to operate on the corner of a residential area.
- It’s important to remember that an inconvenience does not equal actual damage — an inconvenience is unlikely to sway the zoning board.
Because zoning laws can be so complex, it often helps to have an attorney on your side that is familiar with land use and zoning issues.
Source: land matters, “Challenging zoning and land use decisions,” accessed Sep. 29, 2017