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Finding zoning relief

Zoning is the main tool used by municipal authorities in urban planning. Maryland property owners may want to know what their options are if they need zoning relief.

Property owners have two options if their land is affected by zoning. They can request an exception from the government. The landowner also has the option of challenging the zoning ordinance as unconstitutional or improper. Before they try to challenge a zoning decision, they should consult with an attorney who has experience handling land use cases.

Owners have multiple options if the nature of the zone where their land is located has changed after a zoning ordinance has passed. There are instances in which the property can continue to be used in the manner it has always been used under a lawful nonconforming use provision. A landowner may also opt to request one of two kinds of variance, one that addresses the use of the land or one that pertains to the structures constructed on the land. Regardless of which one they decide to request, they must show that an undue hardship would occur as a result of adhering to the zoning ordinance.

Challenging a zoning ordinance can be done by targeting the process used to adopt it. In some cases, a challenge can be based on a claim that the ordinance fails to conform to the master plan, the area-wide map that details current and future land uses. Landowners might also assert that their constitutional right to procedural due process has been violated if they have not received adequate notice in advance of the change or have not been given the opportunity to contest it. As these types of zoning cases can be complicated, it could be advisable for landowners to have experienced legal representation when they are mounting a challenge.

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