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Zoning and Land Use Looking Out for Your Best Interests

Harrisburg Real Estate Zoning and Land Use Lawyer

Helping homeowners in actions before local zoning boards

Many homeowners realize their property would meet their desires if changes were made to the home or to the land around the home. Although homeowners “should” be able to perform many minor changes on their homes, homeowners should review any major changes to their property with an experienced Harrisburg zoning and land use attorney.

It is advantageous to apply for zoning approval before you spend any money on repairs or improvements, rather than performing the work and later receiving a citation from the zoning board. If your work on your property violates the Harrisburg zoning laws, you may have to pay fines or even have to restore your property to its original condition.

Our experienced zoning lawyers can explain when you need approval from a zoning board or a local township board of supervisors and when you can make changes without approval. For example, you normally can change your windows and doors without approval. However, building an addition onto your home will require a zoning approval.

Among other property issues , ur lawyers represent property owners with the following zoning and land use issues,:

  • Variances, including:
    • Development variances
    • Use variances
    • Setback variances
  • Special exceptions
  • Conditional uses
  • Grandfathering
  • Citations
  • Easements
  • Permits
  • Land use covenants

What is a zoning variance?

A variance is a request by the homeowner to make an exception to the requirements or restrictions that currently apply to residences in the geographical area where the property is located. The main conditions for a variance approval are:

  • The homeowner will suffer undue hardship due to the current conditions of the home if the variance is denied.
  • There are current characteristics of the homeowner’s property that make it impossible to develop or use the property so that it can be reasonably used without the approval of the variance.
  • The person applying for the variance did not create the hardship.
  • Granting the variance will not alter/change the neighborhood’s essential character.
  • The variance requested is the minimum change that will prevent the hardship.

Zoning variances may be necessary depending on the size, shape, location, and surroundings of your property. Generally, a homeowner should be able to enjoy his/her residence in the same way his/her neighbor does.

There are different types of variances. The most common types are “use variances” and “area variances.” A use variance requests that the property owner be permitted to use his or her property in a way that is not currently permitted. A common example is when a homeowner seeks a variance to conduct a commercial business (such as a professional office) in an area that is zoned for residential use.

An area variance is a request to change the physical layout of the property in some way. Some of the reasons for seeking an area variance according to Urban Planning Life include:

  • Changes to setback requirements. Harrisburg zoning laws generally regulate:
    • The front yard setback. This is the distance between the front of your property and the street.
    • The rear yard setback.
    • The street side yard setback.
    • The side yard setback.
    • The landscape setback.
  • Lot coverage. “Lot coverage is the size of the footprint(s) of a building(s) and/or structure(s) on a lot divided by the size of the parcel, expressed as a decimal number or percentage.”
  • Density.
  • Lot size.
  • Building height.

What is a special exception?

Special exceptions are requests for unique usage within the zoning district. The applicant must obtain approval for the special exception. Generally with a special exception, you are seeking permission to do something the zoning ordinance permits under special conditions. A special variance seeks permission to do something which local ordinances do not permit. An example of a special exception is a request to add a school or a religious structure in a residential neighborhood.

What is a conditional use of a property?

A homeowner can also apply for a conditional use exception. Generally, instead of the zoning board approving the request, a municipal governing board approves the request – subject to certain conditions. An example of a conditional use might be to require parking for a building.

How do skilled Harrisburg zoning lawyers help homeowners?

At the Law Office of Jason R. Carpenter, we do more than just determine what type of approval you need. We work with building code professionals, contractors, surveyors, engineers, and others to show the improvements you want to make and why you need to make those changes.

We represent homeowners at zoning hearings. Once you apply for a variance, special exception, or other zoning requests, the zoning board generally gives your neighbors a right to respond, either in writing or by an appearance at the zoning board hearing. Our lawyers work to address any concerns your neighbors have.

We present your request before the zoning board along with all evidence in support of your claim. We respond to any issues raised at the hearing. In addition to the legal reasons why your variance or other zoning request should be granted, we work to show your improvements will not only make your property more useful, but will be a benefit to the community Normally, the zoning board will vote whether to grant your request]. Zoning approvals are not automatic. Even if your neighbors do not object, you still must convince the zoning board that your request should be granted.

At the Law Office of Jason R. Carpenter, our Harrisburg residential zoning lawyers understand that many homeowners desire to improve or change their property in order to use it in ways that meet their needs. We guide property owners through the zoning approval process. We also represent homeowners in other real estate issues, such as buying and selling Harrisburg homes. To discuss your right to alter your property and learn how the zoning process works, call us at: (717) 537-0928, or complete our contact form. to schedule an appointment.

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