Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Dec 22, 2020

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Local zoning laws usually regulate the use of your property. Although zoning ordinances may differ in communities, the major objective of zoning is to maintain neighborhood uniformity by grouping similar property uses together into zones. Because zoning regulates land uses, it is important to understand how your property is zoned.

Consult Your Local Zoning Office

While many property owners have a general idea on their neighborhood zoning, subcategories within a zoning plan might go into detail about the exact type of activity that is permitted. A simple way to get this zoning information is to go to the local zoning office, city hall, or some other local planning board, and ask for a copy of your local ordinance. The zoning ordinance is public record, so any property owner may get a copy by request. In addition to the zoning ordinance, most communities provide zoning maps showing not only what the zoning ordinance is, but the overall zoning plan. Many communities also provide this information online, so you can check your city’s homepage to see if the zoning ordinance and zoning map are on the city’s web site. Accessing information about how your property is zoned does not require significant research, but if you have difficulty, get help from your local officials or an attorney.

Getting Legal Help

Once you have the records, you may find that the details of your zoning ordinance are more complicated than you thought, or that your intended use is not permitted. Then it is advisable to talk to an attorney who is familiar with the local zoning law. He or she can help explain a complicated zoning plan, and find ways to get permission from the local zoning board to expand the lawful use of your property.