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The legal options for relief from zoning laws

Delaware residents who are interested in land use issues may wish to know their options when it comes to fighting against zoning laws. These options usually involve either asking for an exception to the laws or fighting against the particular application of the laws themselves.

If the property owner had already been using the land in a way that is counter to a new zoning law, they may be able to petition the government for permission to continue that use. This exception usually hinges on the effect that the land use will have on the public. Another way to allow nonconforming use is to ask for a variance from the zoning laws. Generally, this requires the property owner to show that conforming with the zoning law would cause undue hardship and would not be against the public interest. A special permit is another type of variance that is specifically allowed in the zoning ordinance.

Another option for property owners is to fight against the zoning laws themselves. Usually these attacks either focus on the law not conforming to the community's master plan or that the landowner's due process rights were violated by not being given sufficient notice. The property owner may also wish to assert that the government has taken the land in an unconstitutional manner. This could mean that the zoning laws have removed all commercial value from the property, which could possibly be deemed an unconstitutional government taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

An attorney may be helpful in assessing the zoning law situation and explaining a property owner's legal options. The attorney may be able to bring legal action to challenge the zoning laws or apply for the appropriate conditional use permits.

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