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Real Estate and Land Use attorney Karen Cohen was published in the Fee Simple — The Journal of the Virginia State Bar Real Property Section (Vol. XLI, No.2) Fall 2020 authoring, “The Language of Vested Rights — Ironing Out the Confusion”.

Whether or not land use law is your main practice area, no doubt you have heard someone, somewhere, talk about a parcel of land, or a building, or the use of the land or building, in terms such as this: “Oh, yes, that junkyard is there only because the city grandfathered it in” or, “Current zoning wouldn’t allow it, but the owner’s rights had vested.” Or perhaps you have heard a zoning official refer to a certain lot or building that seems to violate the current zoning as being allowed to be there because it is “lawfully nonconforming.” Sometimes, this vocabulary is used without sufficient precision. While these are related concepts, casually conflating the terminology can lead to misunderstandings about precisely what rights are associated with the property in question. This article provides a basic overview of the terminology and discusses some relevant case law that sheds light on the subject.

Read the full article here.


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