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Finding help when land use violates existing zoning laws

Zoning is a way that Hennepin County authorities may protect local residents from neighboring land uses that range from nuisances to dangers. Regions of the county are zoned for residential, commercial and other specific purposes; when a property within a particular zoning area does not conform to its specified use, the owner of the property may violate the county's zoning ordinances. That owner may have options for remedying his property's violation.

One way that a property owner may deal with his zoning issues is by requesting permission from the county to maintain his non-conforming property in the zone. On occasion, a property is used for an extended period of time in a particular way. When the zone it is in changes uses, that property and its owner are caught in a difficult situation. The county may grant the property owner permission to keep using his property in the non-conforming way.

Such permission from the county can come in the form of a variance, special permit or other legal tool. Unfortunately, not all zoning issues can be resolved in this way. In some cases a property owner has to take a more aggressive approach to protecting his property. This approach can involve contesting the fairness of the applicable zoning laws and regulations.

Some communities are based on comprehensive land use plans. These plans establish how the communities will be laid out in terms of use and zoning. In some cases a property owner is able to challenge that a zoning regulation violates the community's land use plan and therefore should not be followed.

There are other methods of dealing with zoning problems between the county and a property owner. However, every property owner has a different situation to resolve and the information contained in this post should not be read as specific legal advice. Attorneys who practice land use and zoning law can provide useful information relevant to their clients' particular cases.

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