Representing Clients Seeking Approval for Their Real Estate Projects

As the population of the Commonwealth continues to grow, the need for new real estate developments also increases. However, in order for developers and real estate investors to be able to build new commercial, industrial, or residential properties, developers need to obtain enough buy-in from local government entities and community members. The process of obtaining the required permits, approvals, and zoning changes is not always easy. This is when the knowledge of a skilled land use and zoning attorney can make all the difference.

What Is the Definition of Land Use in Virginia?

In simple terms, land use is a term that describes how humans use the land in a particular area. It refers to the allocation of land resources to meet the various needs of society, including agriculture, urban development, conservation, and recreation. The most commonly recognized categories of land use include agricultural use, urban development, conservation, recreation, mining and extraction, forestry, and transportation.

Agricultural use is land used for growing crops and raising livestock to produce food. In contrast, urban development use happens when land is converted into residential, commercial, and industrial areas for housing and businesses. Many public lands are used for conservation purposes, which is when land is preserved and protected for its ecological value, such as national parks and protected areas. Land can also be used for recreational purposes like parks, beaches, and hiking trails. Mining and extraction use refers to using land to exploit minerals and resources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Private lands can also be used for forestry, which is when the land is managed for timber production and other forest products. Transportation use refers to land that is used for roads, railways, and airports.

What Is Zoning?

Zoning is the division of land into different zones or districts, each with specific regulations and restrictions on how properties can be lawfully used and developed. In other words, zoning regulations determine the types of uses and developments allowed in each zone, such as residential, commercial, industrial, or agricultural use. They also set forth specific requirements and rules addressing important factors such as the density, building height, setbacks, and other parameters for development within each zone.

For example, a residential zone may restrict the construction of commercial buildings and limit the height of residential structures to maintain the character of the neighborhood. Likewise, an industrial zone may allow for heavy manufacturing activities but prohibit residential development due to potential noise or pollution concerns. In general, every property has a zoning classification already assigned to it.

Zoning laws are tailored to each community’s specific needs and goals, so they can vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Individuals or companies seeking to build new real estate projects should always consult a land use and zoning attorney to determine if their proposed development project is allowed by the current zoning and land use laws or if a change needs to be requested.

What Are the Most Common Obstacles to New Real Estate Development Projects in Virginia?

In Virginia, new real estate development projects that significantly impact the current landscape of a certain community may prove challenging and require a careful approach. Owners and developers may often encounter public opposition at special permit and rezoning hearings, especially when their proposed project includes significant alterations to local historical, natural, architectural, or agricultural sites.

In many instances, developers must be prepared to submit site and development plans for approval and even make changes to their original plans to address local residents’ and authorities’ concerns and objections. There are usually many laws, ordinances, and regulations that need to be observed before a project can be approved, which could result in significant construction delays. For these reasons, owners and developers should consider working with a skilled land use and zoning lawyer to anticipate potential issues with their project and get help navigating the process of having their project approved by the local authorities.

What Role Does a Land Use and Zoning Attorney Play in the Development of New Real Estate Projects?

A land use and zoning attorney possesses extensive knowledge of land use laws and regulations and plays a critical role in helping clients advance their projects and avoid unnecessary costs and delays. Their in-depth understanding of the zoning codes, building codes, and other regulations governing land development and utilization allows them to be proactive, identify any potential legal obstacles or challenges during the development process, and provide strategic advice to the client. A land use and zoning attorney can also assist clients in securing variances, special permits, or adjustments to zoning regulations.

Invariably, the vast majority of projects proposing significant changes to an area run into one or more opposing parties who would like the land to continue the way it is. Because attorneys are highly skilled in the areas of negotiation and dispute resolution, land use, and zoning, they can help advance the interests of their clients by conducting negotiations and openly communicating with community groups and local authorities involved in the project. Additionally, attorneys can represent their clients in litigation or mediation proceedings whenever these steps are necessary to resolve any disputes that may arise during the development process.

At Ashwell & Ashwell, PLLC, our attorneys are well-versed in all aspects of zoning laws and land use regulations in Virginia. We have successfully assisted clients, land owners, real estate investors, and developers in obtaining the necessary approvals for a variety of development projects. If you have questions concerning land use or zoning matters, reach out to our office in Warrenton, VA, at 540-386-1277.


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