ATTENTION: COVID-19 Based on the COVID-19 concerns and the stay-at-home order issued by the Governor of California on March 19, 2020, our office is temporarily closed. The health and well-being of staff and clients are our top priority. For the time being, our ATTORNEYS ARE WORKING REMOTELY and are available to attend to our clients' needs. You may experience a delay in response to your email or phone calls during this time. We will make every effort to respond promptly and appreciate your patience and understanding.

Real Estate Attorney for Ordinance Amendments

December 10, 2020 — by John Conger
Tags: Real Estate Zoning Land Use

A scenic view of developed landReal estate and land development are complex businesses. There are numerous laws that regulate land use and property development guidelines. What’s more, these laws can change at virtually any time. Landowners and property owners should work with a knowledgeable real estate attorney to fully understand real estate law and ensure compliance with ordinance amendments.

The real estate attorneys at Shore, McKinley, Conger & Jolley, LLP can assist in all aspects of property and land development. Here, our real estate attorneys discuss ordinance amendments, and the rights our Stockton and Walnut Creek, CA, clients have if ordinances change while they are developing land or property.

About Real Estate Ordinances

Virtually all land and property is subject to zoning ordinances. Zoning ordinances are rules that outline how land in specific areas can be used. For instance, zoning ordinances dictate whether a piece of property can be used for residential purposes, or whether it is suitable for commercial purposes.

Zoning ordinances may also specify property guidelines, such as:

  • The size of a lot
  • The density and placement of structures within a lot
  • The maximum width, length and height of structures within a lot

Local Ordinances May Differ

Ordinances are specific to geographic zones, so two properties that are within the same city may not be subject to the same ordinances. Our real estate attorneys can help property and land owners understand local ordinances and how they apply to their property.

Reasons for Ordinance Amendments

Unfortunately for land and property owners, ordinances are subject to change, which can make it difficult to stay on top of ordinance guidelines. Ordinance amendments can be passed at virtually any time.

Common reasons for ordinance amendments include changes within the municipality, such as:

  • New highways in the area
  • Extended sewer lines
  • Increased population
  • Other changes that make current ordinances impractical

Can Ordinance Amendments Be Challenged?

As ordinances are amended, they set new standards for land and property use within an area. However, there is usually some degree of flexibility, or some way for property owners to challenge ordinance amendments, in certain circumstances.

Zoning Ordinance Options to Consider

If a property owner has plans to develop their property, or is in the midst of developing land when an ordinance is amended, there are a few options available to them. Our Stockton real estate attorneys can help clients determine if they may be eligible for one of the following:

  • Variance - A variance provides an ordinance exception to one specific property. A variance may be granted if an owner proves that existing zoning ordinances would create a hardship, or would be difficult to comply with.
  • Special-permit use - A special-permit use, sometimes called a special-use variance, may be issued to allow a property use exception to one specific property. Special-permit uses are granted to the property owner and generally only last for a specific period of time, or as long as the property is owned by the same party.
  • Nonconforming use - If a building was already in place before ordinances existed, or before they had been amended, (or if property is in the midst of being developed) the structure is usually “grandfathered” under previous ordinances. This means that it is allowed to stay as-is and is considered non-conforming to the current ordinance.

Contact Our Real Estate Attorneys

If you have real estate questions, including concerns about land use or ordinance amendments, the attorneys at Shore, McKinley, Conger & Jolley, LLP can help. To schedule a consultation with our legal team, send us a message online at your earliest convenience, or call our law firm at (209) 477-8171.