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Friday, March 13, 2020

What to Do When Your Land Use Violates Connecticut Zoning Laws?

Zoning is a city and town planning tool used by local governments to limit the use of real estate through laws and regulations. Local governments often have plans for the local area, such as identifying where certain activities should be limited to or allowed to maximize social benefit. Connecticut zoning statutes typically designate four categories for land use: agricultural, commercial, industrial, and residential. Additionally, more specific zoning regulations include restrictions on the number of residences per parcel, minimum lot size, floor space restrictions, and other aspects of land use for each category. Thus, even if a lot is zoned as residential, building two homes on the lot may violate the zoning laws. If the planned or current use for a property violates zoning laws, landowners have several options at their disposal.

Petition to Change

Petitioning to change zoning laws in Connecticut is a difficult and expensive process. For landowners seeking to allow a use that deviates marginally from current zoning laws, other options such as variances and conditional use permits are likely to be more cost-effective. However, for landowners seeking to completely change the use of a property, such as building an industrial or commercial site on land currently zoned for agriculture, petitioning to change the zoning laws may be necessary.


Variances are similar to a petition to change in that you must still petition the local government to allow a use in violation of the zoning laws. However, variances are less permanent and thus more likely to be approved by the local government. When seeking more minor deviations from current zoning laws, such as height and size requirements, a variation is likely to be a better option than petitioning to change the zoning laws. The process for achieving a variance is also less complex and time-consuming than petitioning to change zoning laws.

Conditional Use Permit

A conditional use permit is similar to a variance, but grants a variating in use that is conditional on certain requirements being met. A common example is a conditional use permit for a small home-based business to operate on a lot zoned for residential on the condition that signage for the business is limited and traffic related to the business must park in certain areas. If these conditions are not satisfied, the permit will be revoked.

Non-conforming Use

In some cases, zoning laws have changed and no longer allow for a property’s current use to continue, or aspects of the property may no longer conform to current laws. In these cases, the landowner can petition for recognition of non-conforming use. Many older homes are subject to non-conforming use due to changing zoning laws, such as how far back from the road a property must be built.

Obtain the Assistance of a Connecticut Real Estate Attorney

At the Law Office of Benjamin S. Proto, Jr., we have helped numerous Connecticut residents navigate the complexities of planning and zoning restrictions. Whether seeking to rezone or just discuss your options, we are here to help. If you are seeking assistance with regards to zoning laws in Stratford, Bridgeport, Milford, Trumbull, Shelton, Fairfield, Orange, Derby, New Haven, or anywhere else in Connecticut, please contact us today for a consultation.

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