by Robert C. Shea II
Did you know that you can challenge any Ordinance that may negatively impact your property rights?
An “Ordinance” is a municipal law, rule, or regulation that applies to a specific town or city. Typically, townships pass laws that attempt to protect your right to peace and enjoyment of your property and to ensure the civility of its citizens. However, sometimes a township may pass an Ordinance that negatively impacts your real estate interests. Such an Ordinance usually takes the form of an amendment to the zone where your property is located. A zone is nothing more than an area of a Township which restricts the type of construction or activity allowed within it. Most people live in areas zoned for “residential use.” Restricting the type of construction allowed within a zone is one tool used to prevent the area from morphing into something unintended, like having a factory built next to your home. Each zone has dimensional, or “bulk,” requirements defined by Ordinance. Examples of these dimensional requirements can be seen as the height of the structure and set back requirements for building on the property, which is the minimum distance the structure can be to the property line.
Sometimes a local governing body attempts to pass an Ordinance which changes the character of a zone, thereby negatively impacting its residents. An example of this can be seen by an Ordinance recently passed by the Township of Lakewood. Lakewood Ordinance 2022-46 was passed to allow schools to operate as a private banquet hall, at any time, in every non-residential zone simultaneously. In essence, every school is now permitted to host a wedding or other similar event, with little to no municipal approvals or oversite. Such an ordinance will negatively impact its residents in numerous ways, including parking concerns, traffic safety, and noise & light pollution.
But this doesn’t have to happen to you. Before any Ordinance is approved by the local governing body, the public must be given the right to challenge the proposed Ordinance and place their objections on record. Further, the governing body must then render a determination that the Ordinance itself is consistent with the township’s own Master Plan. A Master Plan is a document developed to monitor the use of property within a municipality in order to protect the public from inequitable and chaotic development. So, if an Ordinance is not consistent with the township’s Master Plan then you may be able to prevent the Ordinance from being adopted.
Contact the Attorney’s at R.C. Shea & Associates for your free consultation if you are aware of any potential Ordinances that may negatively impacting your property.