Land use

Zoning and planning permission

Which authorities regulate real estate zoning in your state and what is the extent of their powers?

In Alabama, cities and counties control zoning regulations. Certain state agencies may have jurisdiction in some instances (e.g., the Alabama Department of Environmental Management reviews projects with the potential to impact Alabama’s coastal resources). In addition, projects that could impact waterbottoms or wetlands will require permits or certifications from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and in some instances, the State Oil and Gas Board, and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

What are the eligibility, procedural and documentary requirements to obtain planning permission?

The process to obtain planning permission depends on the municipality where permission is sought. As a general rule, the process begins by filing an application or petition with the applicable planning and zoning commission. Public notice is also required by publication, and written notice must be provided to neighboring property (requirements differ by locality). For example, in Birmingham, requests to rezone property are presented to the Zoning Advisory Committee of the Birmingham Planning Commission. This body holds a public hearing and makes a recommendation to the City Council. The Planning and Zoning Committee reviews the request, along with the Zoning Advisory Committee recommendation, and makes its own recommendation to the City Council. The City Council then holds a public hearing, and votes to either rezone the property or deny the request. Smaller communities may lack citizen advisory boards, and proposals may be submitted directly to the city council.

What is the appeal procedure for planning decisions?

The process to obtain planning permission depends on the municipality where permission is sought. As a general rule, the process begins by filing an application or petition with the applicable planning and zoning commission. Public notice is also required by publication, and written notice must be provided to neighboring property (requirements differ by locality). For example, in Birmingham, requests to rezone property are presented to the Zoning Advisory Committee of the Birmingham Planning Commission. This body holds a public hearing and makes a recommendation to the City Council. The Planning and Zoning Committee reviews the request, along with the Zoning Advisory Committee recommendation, and makes its own recommendation to the City Council. The City Council then holds a public hearing, and votes either to rezone the property or to deny the request. Smaller communities may lack citizen advisory boards, and proposals may be submitted directly to the city council.

 

What are the consequences of failure to comply with planning decisions or regulations?

“Any person, firm, corporation or agency who, in violation of this chapter, fails to obtain the permit required herein or who violates any provision of the building code or zoning ordinances or other regulation, ordinance, or code shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, may be fined not more than $500.00, or may be imprisoned in the county jail for not more than one year or may be both fined and imprisoned.” Ala. Code § 11-19-22. Also, a city or county may seek injunctive relief.

Historical and cultural preservation

What state and local regimes govern the protection and development of historic and cultural buildings?

Historical and cultural sites are governed by municipal, county, state, and national entities. Many cities have a historical body (e.g., Birmingham Historical Commission) that is charged with promoting, enhancing, and preserving historic properties. The Alabama Historical Commission fulfills a similar role on a state-wide level. Additionally, the State Historic Preservation Officer submits nominations to the National Register of Historic Places. Qualifying properties are significant for their architecture, association with important events, or association with important persons. A potential tax credit (Alabama Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit) is available to owners of certain homes and commercial properties who undertake substantial renovations.

State and local government expropriation

What laws and regulations govern the expropriation of property by state and local authorities?

Alabama Code Title 18 governs state and local eminent domain proceedings.

What is the required notice period for expropriation and how is compensation calculated?

A government entity that seeks to condemn a property will first conduct an appraisal to determine the value of just compensation. The government will then offer the property owner the full value of the appraisal for the property in question. If a property owner refuses this offer, the government may file a condemnation action in the probate court in the county where the property is located. Ala. Code §18‑1A‑71. Except for emergencies, property owners must be given at least 90 days’ notice to vacate. Ala. Code § 18-1A-24.