Every city and county in Arizona has its own unique set of laws regarding zoning, land use, and the administration and enforcement of these laws. Before undertaking any sort of a construction project, real estate acquisition or renovation, it’s important you understand zoning law and land use in Arizona. Glean some helpful information from this guide. And remember, Macqueen & Gottlieb was voted as the “Best Real Estate Law Firm” in Arizona for 2019 by Arizona Foothills Magazine. Our experienced real estate lawyers can help answer any questions you have and help you with any sort of real estate problem you might encounter.
Arizona Zoning Laws and Regulations
Zoning laws in Arizona are sets of ordinances restricting how a piece of property can be used, what can be built on it, and where and how it can be built. While these laws may vary between the many different cities and counties in Arizona, they commonly designate the property type that can occupy the “zone,” split into sections that can be identified as: business, residential, commercial or a combination. While some cities and counties have stricter ordinances than others, some are lax and less prohibitive. Certain cities, for example, Scottsdale, regulate things like the height of buildings and fences, types of pets that can be kept in residential areas and so forth.
When a property owner doesn’t adhere to these Arizona zoning laws, they may face civil reprimand in the form of fines, other potential civil litigation, and mandates to cure the zoning violation within a set amount of time or incur additional penalties. If a property owner wishes to use their property in a way not allowed by the current zoning restrictions, they can often apply for something called a “variance.” A variance can either be a “use” variance or an “area” variance. Area variances involve matters such as setback requirements, frontage requirements, height limitations, lot size restrictions, density regulations, and yard requirements, whereas use variances involve using real property for something not listed in the listed area.
This variance is awarded at the discretion of the zoning authority in the respective city or county, and the approval of such variances may vary depending on the city or county of residence. Importantly, however, Arizona does not tend to grant use variances—only area variances are usually considered. Nonetheless, while every county or city may be different, there are generally four things that must be shown to obtain a variance: (1) a hardship that has not been self-imposed; (2) unique or special land, not common to those around you; (3) the variance would be necessary to protect your property rights; and (4) the variance would not change the nature of the neighborhood or cause an undue hardship to those around you. For example, let’s say a particular neighborhood has a setback requirement of 10 feet, but the parcel of land is so oddly shaped, and the landscape is so difficult to build on, that the only proper way to build your proposed home is to encroach slightly on that setback line. You may be able to petition the board of adjustments an obtain the area variance, so that you can still build the home, but it is very important to do this before you start construction.
In certain Arizona cities, the zoning laws are very strict. In extreme instances, this can result in the residents or business owners taking legal action against the city. The reality is that zoning laws in Arizona widely vary between cities and counties, and the law is a complete subject matter. Failure to comply with zoning laws and variances can result in fines and other court costs that can add up to large sums quickly, which is why you want an experienced zoning lawyer in Phoenix to help you from the start.
Use of Land and Regulations
A common misconception about zoning laws and land us in Arizona is that once a favorable decision on zoning has been granted, the land owner is free to do whatever they want to their property. But it’s important to keep in mind that zoning is just one part of a very complicated structure. Most communities have a comprehensive plan of action for land use and zoning that they strictly enforce, not to mention the applicable city codes and their enforcement. Some zones require approval on the appearance of buildings, all the way to the color of paint that can be used (as is seen in Sedona, Arizona), so that the city has a conformed design and aesthetic appeal.
Special requirements such as the aforementioned are applicable and enforceable additions to existing zoning laws. And just because a plot is zoned for a residential doesn’t mean you are free as a landowner to build any type of home you want there. Most cities and zones have requirements on the lot size, the design, height and even the exterior color of homes—all which can change based upon the location of that particular plot of land its corresponding residential zoning requirements.
Contact a Zoning and Land use Lawyer in Phoenix Today!
Zoning laws and land use restrictions in Arizona can be difficult to understand and may have restrictions that can easily go overlooked, leading to unnecessary cost and frustration. Having the proper legal counsel on your side from the start can help you prevent any unwanted setbacks and unforeseeable costs in the aftermath. MacQueen & Gottlieb, PLC has extensive experience with zoning laws and land use in Arizona. Our highly experienced team of Arizona real estate attorneys is prepared to help you defend your interests. Contact us today at 602-726-2229 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment online.