On the Concept of No Zoning

Folks who come up from the city seem to take it for granted that mountain counties have zoning, but it ain’t necessarily so. Fannin County, for instance, has no countywide zoning. It’s a hot button political issue with the local citizens, and the current County Chairman has made it clear that he has no stomach for the fight that would ensure if there were an attempt to enact it.

It’s very much a part of mountain culture that you can do anything you want on your own property, so much so that many people seem to assume that the law literally doesn’t apply to one’s own property. I remember listening to a local person brag about all the trout he caught last weekend, when someone in the audience observed that it wasn’t trout season. The fisherman shot back, “I was on my own property!” From the local point of view, that’s pretty much a knockdown argument.

For this reason, there are more than a few people who have bought property up here only to discover that Farmer Jones was putting a new chicken house next door, or that there is no way to prevent the next door neighbor from assembling a world-class collection of rusting cars in his front yard.

The lesson is that unless you are buying a fair-sized tract of land, or a lot in a very well established neighborhood where nothing is likely to change, that you need to buy in a development with covenants and restrictions. When we tell people that, we often get a negative reaction to the idea of being in a development. People will say, “I don’t want to be in a subdivision.” But if you aren’t in a subdivision with covenants and restrictions, you have no protection from unfriendly land use. It may be best to take a look around and see what our developments are like, and whether you can see yourself living in one of them. In most cases, they aren’t much like subdivisions in the city.

The listing sheet available on the MLS, which your agent should furnish you, will say whether there are covenants and restrictions. The listing office should also have a copy of them on file, and it is a good idea to review them thoroughly before making an offer. There are many, many people who have never seen the covenants and restrictions governing their property, which are on file at the courthouse, but are rarely furnished at closing.

12/12/2002

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