Land use litigation is a review of zoning decisions by various jurisdictions. In most jurisdictions, appeals are made on zoning permits granted to determine whether variances should be permitted. A constituted body is mandated to handle the appeals. This body normally has more power and jurisdiction legally, than the one that issued the previous order. Evidence for land use and zoning litigation cases must prove beyond doubt that there is a need for a review of the previous order given.

Litigation cases in land use and zoning are mainly between the leading master planners against a given order or directive. Other factors also call for litigation in that line or sector. These cases include

  • Land development laws and zoning appeals issued.
  • Issues with master plan amendments.
  • Land use and zoning appeals on rulings.
  • Due process violations especially by a local authority.
  • Rights to water.
  • Environmental laws and regulations
  • Sustainability.

Land Use

Land is used for various purposes. Land can be utilized for agriculture, real estate, and many other reasons. To put land into use, the user is expected to adhere to set regulations. Real estate investors, for instance, have to follow environmental laws for construction, insurance laws and others.

Land use is first permitted by local municipal councils or local jurisdictions, however, these permits and decisions may be appealed at a court of higher jurisdiction.

Land Purchase

Upon deciding to purchase a piece of land, buyers may have to deal with an intermediary broker who conducts negotiations between the buyer and the owner before reaching an agreement. The buyer, in this case, is advised to seek legal advice while engaging in negotiations to ascertain that all they hear and say is clear and not legally binding in a negative manner. The buyer is served with a contract and agreement to review and sign prior to the purchase of the land. The contract is a binding agreement and requires the buyer to review the contract/agreement to fully understand all terms and conditions.

In the case where the broker does not offer a contract, the broker ties themselves as liable to cater to their commission in case the sale falls through. There also are agents that use standard forms with provisions which they barely understand and this, for a buyer, costs more than not having a legal review of a contract before signing it.

Buying Agreement

Upon agreeing to purchase or use the land, the buyer enters into an agreement with the seller. This agreement is a reflection of the buyer and seller’s desires and includes:

  • Whether changes are legally made.
  • Liabilities in case the buyer fails to purchase the property.

Such provisions are laid out to guide the selling process. It is essential for a buyer to seek legal aid prior to engaging with the seller to avoid future disputes.

Land Title

When a buyer purchases land, they expect evidence of ownership by the seller aka a “Title”. It is advisable to obtain a title search of the property if ownership is in question. That search is done by an abstract or insurance firm. Having completed the title search, the buyer decides whether or not he wishes to purchase the land. If the buyer does choose to go forward with the purchase, an offer is made, and a closing is scheduled. Once the buyer purchases the property, title is then moved from the seller to the buyer and the buyer completes payment for the property.

Land Use Laws

Since the 1920s, governments have imposed reasonable regulations on the use of privately-owned land. While some people argue these regulations, most recognize that when a person creates unsightly blight that others have to look at, or use their property in ways that create unreasonable noise, odors, lighting or create a threat to the safety of others, it is reasonable for the local government to step in and stop the nuisance behavior.

Local governments focus considerable attention reviewing plans for new development to prevent problems and conflicts before they materialize. Land use regulations protect the overall appearance of the community, protect the natural features that residents value, and help minimize the cost of local government services.

Local governments exercise land use authority through local planning and zoning.

A master plan guides the overall direction of where land uses are most appropriate by considering local and regional assets, needs and opportunities, as well as development patterns driven by market forces and infrastructure improvements.

A zoning ordinance is a township law establishing land development districts and regulating land development. In suburban and rural areas where the dominant intent of zoning is to protect the value and use of private residences, zoning often focuses on segregating incompatible land uses.

Land Use and Zoning

Zoning is the term used for designating permitted uses of certain parcels of land by local governments. The local government will designate various zones for different uses of land, such as industrial, agricultural, commercial, and residential. Zoning is also frequently used to designate the types of buildings that can be erected in a particular area, such as high-density housing, high-rises, maximum height restrictions, etc.

The primary philosophy behind zoning regulations is to separate different, incompatible property uses. For example, keeping large, smoke-producing factories away from residential neighborhoods. However, in many instances, variances, or exceptions to the zoning rules, are possible. For example, a small residential variance might be granted to allow for a home in an industrial zone to house the night watchman. Usually, variances are granted because of some perceived hardship caused by the particular nature of the property in question or to satisfy a unique need that is not otherwise against the public interests.

Of course, zoning laws are not without their critics or misuse. Along with potential property rights infringements, zoning has also been criticized as a means to promote social and economic segregation through exclusion. By improper use of various land-use restrictions, such as maximum density requirements, municipalities are able to artificially maintain high housing costs, increasing the tax base while effectively excluding lower-income groups.

If you have questions about zoning, land-use, obtaining variances, or fighting government sponsored housing segregation, contact our office to meet with one of our qualified attorneys.