Setback ordinances are laws which govern how close you can build to property boundaries. The simple idea behind these laws is to keep residential and commercial buildings from being built too close together. Setback ordinances in Arizona are a part of local zoning and land use laws and typically are set and maintained by the city or municipality. Here are the main concepts you want to understand about setback ordinances in Arizona.
Purpose of Setback Ordinances
Maintaining adequate distance from property boundaries helps to ensure that each property owner can have continued enjoyment of their own property. These setback laws can encompass ventilation and views so that new structures will not block regular access to light or views on the property. Arizona commercial zoning setbacks are also focused on safety. Structures need to maintain adequate distance from the street and neighboring structures to ensure that a lack of access does not create a hazard for the structure and the safety of others.
Handling a Legal Issue with Arizona Setback Ordinances
The most common legal issue involving setback ordinances is when a neighbor wants to build a new structure that encroaches on your property in violation of setback ordinances. Often, the neighbor has already begun construction before he or she realizes that they are in violation.
Once they have started the construction, it makes the remedy more difficult and often results in a lawsuit because it can be hard to convince someone to simply scrap their new project once construction has commenced.
A business building a new structure or adding to their existing property near a residential area, can also violate setback ordinances and potentially face in a legal claim. If the new structure blocks light or view on your property, there might be a claim they have violated setback ordinances in Arizona, if those property rights are protected.
If your dispute involves the municipality or city governing the setback ordinances, you will typically have to file a complaint before you can pursue a lawsuit on the matter. One of the reasons that setback ordinance lawsuits are complicated is because they often involve multiple parties. If you are the party which is seeking an exception to the zoning law, you will need to petition for a variance, or exception, to the zoning laws if you feel that the setback ordinance is inhibiting your ability to improve your property.
Typical Resolution for Setback Violations in Arizona
Whether you are facing a claim of a setback violation on your property or pursuing a claim against one or more other parties for alleged violation of setback ordinances, there are generally four typical resolutions for setback violations.
The first remedy prescribed when a potential setback violation arises is an injunction on the building project. This means that all building must stop until a final resolution on the matter is achieved. An injunction will typically be issued when construction has already started and there are competing claims about a potential violation with multiple parties involved.
The second resolution is an injunction to move the structure in violation of setback ordinances. This can range from moving a fence to a complete teardown of a building or addition. There are potentially substantial costs associated with being forced to move a structure and it’s one of the main reasons to take a setback violation seriously and work with an experienced real estate attorney in Arizona if you are facing a claim.
The third resolution to a setback violation is an award of monetary damages. If your property suffered losses or your property was damaged by a neighboring home or business that violated setback ordinances, then you might be entitled to monetary compensation.
The final resolution is the modification of the property lines. This remedy would typically involve a settlement between the parties to sort out appropriate compensation, unless a case can be made that the setback ordinance was unnecessary or unfair to one of the properties and required an adjustment.
If construction is complete on the building or structure in violation, then the resolution will typically take into consideration whether it is possible or practical to move the structure. These claims typically result in damages awarded to the party negatively impacted by the violation without needing to take down the structure.
Recent AZ Cases About Variances
In August of 2017, the Arizona Supreme Court clarified when certain variances are applicable in a case called Pawn 1st, LLC v. City of Phoenix. In the case, a pawn shop operator was denied a variance for an ordinance which required the exterior walls of a pawn shop to be located at least 500 feet from a residential district.
The pawn shop owner brought suit and this case eventually went to the Arizona Supreme Court. The pawn shop owner alleged hardships, while the City of Phoenix argued that the hardship was self-imposed because the pawn shop owner bought the lot knowing the setbacks conflicted with the commercial use.
The Arizona Supreme Court held in favor of the store owner because restricting anyone from purchasing a property whom has knowledge of a restriction would effectively stop everyone from being able to obtain an area variance. It also would give purchasers fewer property rights. Consequently, developers and property owners can now enter into property transactions without fear that the transaction creates a “self-imposed” special circumstance that would prohibit an area variance.
Find an Experienced Attorney for Setback Ordinances in Arizona
Many claims of setback violations start with one party alleging a violation of setback ordinances by a neighboring party. This means many people think they can sort it out by attempting to discuss the matter directly with the other party and figure out a resolution. Attempting to handle a setback violation without experienced legal counsel leaves you open to risk and often fails to accomplish the best resolution.
The attorneys at M&G Law have significant experience with setback ordinances and can help you pursue the best course of action. Contact us today at 602-533-2840 to schedule an initial consultation or make an appointment online.