When you own property, you probably feel strongly about how you should be allowed to use the property. You also feel strongly about how your neighbors use their property since their use can significantly impact the value and enjoyment you get from what you own. Determining where one person’s rights end and another’s begins is a debate that communities regularly take up and address with various different land use controls including zoning, ordinances, and other methods.
Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania
A 2019 case from the U.S. Supreme Court addressed land-use decisions, allowing property owners who object to a decision made by their local government to bring a federal civil rights action for damages without first challenging the restriction in state court. Improper land-use decisions are considered regulatory “takings,” and takings are regulated by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
These types of takings occur when the local government or agency makes a decision that property may, or may not, be developed in a particular manner, thus depriving the landowner of their right to do something with their property. A taking must be followed by just compensation to the landowner. In the simplest sense, just compensation is the loss of value of the lot, though that topic can get much more complicated.
Land Use Ordinances and Zoning
Local governments use, or refuse to use, various tools to control where and what can be built on a particular piece of land. These range from flood zones where building could create a natural hazard to industrial zones to encourage all industrial facilities to group in a certain area away from residential streets. Ordinances, meanwhile, govern details that protect the look and feel of an area and include setbacks from the road, signage requirements, historic preservation rules, and more. These are designed not to tell a property owner what they can or can’t build, but to try and maintain the character of a particular area.
These rules are generally made at the local government level, city or county, and enforced at that level by the local planning department. There is a process to be heard when ordinances are being made and request variances if your property does not lend itself to a particular rule. Working with the local government to get changes, pursue your rights, or simply to create new ordinances to further protect the natural beauty of your area requires perseverance and political willpower.
Challenging Local Decisions
Where talking to the county, speaking up in planning meetings, and peaceful protest fails, litigation is often able to get the attention of decisionmakers at both local and federal levels. It also tends to get the attention of the person, company, or government official you want to pay attention to your problem. While you may not argue your case in front of the Supreme Court, you can bring it in federal court and most likely use it to bring people to the table to force a conversation about a reasonable compromise.
As experienced litigation attorneys, the team at Dunn Law Firm is ready to help you pursue your goals through court. We have the experience to argue your case at both state and federal levels and the strength to negotiate reasonable deals when possible. To learn more, reach out to the Dunn Law Firm by calling (435) 628-5405 and set up a free consultation today.