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What do zoning variances cover?

On Behalf of | Jun 23, 2021 | Residential Real Estate |

When buying a home in New York, you may have plans for the future of the property. Whether you want to build an addition, subdivide the land or expand your waterfront access, you should be aware of zoning regulations that may restrict what you can do with the property. It may be possible in some cases to step outside of the regulations, especially if there is support for the idea within the community by seeking a zoning variance.

Why get a zoning variance?

There are several reasons why people may be able to receive a zoning variance for their property, especially if some characteristics of the land make it impossible to readily comply with zoning rules. The rules may, for example, state that all homes have to have a certain setback from neighboring properties or the street. If the land parcel is too small, however, the landowner may be given a “use” or “hardship” variance. If you already know you may need a variance when buying land, it is important to consider that in your bidding process, as you always face the risk of a challenge from your neighbors.

What about older properties?

In some cases, a nonconforming lot was created before certain zoning rules existed. While a nonconforming use variance may apply to existing buildings, you may face difficulties when adding extra space, enlarging a deck or building a new story. A real estate law attorney may be able to provide more information about dealing with nonconforming properties before signing a purchase contract or work with the town zoning office to negotiate a variance. If you are planning to buy a larger lot and subdivide it further, you may need to pay extra attention to zoning regulations covering the subdivision of land.

If you are shopping for a beachfront property or a building in a historical district, you may face even more specific concerns about zoning. There are strict rules for appearance and environmental impact in many places. By learning as much as possible about the zoning regulations and variance potential of a property before buying, you can plan strategically for your future land use.