Municipal Law - Zoning & Planning

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DEALING WITH GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORITIES AND YOUR REAL ESTATE

This firm practices municipal law and represents individuals whose property is being damaged or condemned by the state and federal government.

If you have a problem with the local government, it usually will apply in a zoning or planning situation largely governed by local authorities. Blount County has at least four planning commissions: Blount County, Maryville, Alcoa, and Townsend. Issues before these bodies include rezoning efforts, waivers allowing nonconforming uses of property, applications for building permits, subdivision approval, and the construction of roads. Accompanying these issues sometimes are storm water and other problems that can arise after a planned development is implemented.

We deal with local planning commissions, local boards of zoning appeals, and if necessary these cases are taken to Chancery Court under Petitions for Certiorari or Petitions to Review Administrative Hearings. The entity that has jurisdiction over your issue determines which remedy you can seek if you are dissatisfied with the result of that board’s or commission’s decision.

Condemnation is a process where local, state, or the federal government decides that it needs your property, either in part or in total, for a “public necessity.” Some private entities are given the same authority as governments, such as utility companies.

If condemnation occurs directly you will be notified in writing by the entity desiring to take your property, at which time you will be given an opportunity to negotiate a deal with the entity for compensation. If you cannot reach an agreement the governmental entity (or utility) will pay the money that it feels is appropriate for the damage being caused to you into court, and then you will have a right to challenge both the necessity of the action and the amount of compensation you are entitled to. Very rarely are courts inclined to stop governmental entities from doing the actual condemnation, but juries decide what the appropriate compensation for your loss is. These cases can be very complicated and can involve expert witnesses such as appraisers or other land use professionals who can help the jury decide the actual impact of the governmental action on your property.

Sometimes governments or utilities actually affect your property without condemning it formally. These usually result from some action taken on other property close to or adjacent to yours and leaves you with limited access, devaluation of your property due to the action taken by the government, or otherwise destroys the fair and best use of your property. This is called inverse condemnation and you as the property owner can take the initiative and actually sue the government. If you prevail in an inverse condemnation case you are entitled to have your attorney fees reimbursed. The cases that this firm has dealt with involving inverse condemnation have largely centered around the expansion of runways at McGhee Tyson Airport and the effect of noise and pollution on residential neighbors who, because of the airport’s actions, are exposed to these conditions.