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NC State Extension

Land Use and Zoning

Land Use Law and Zoning. Land ownership and its use are conditionally protected by the United States Constitution. Over the course of almost a millennium of English and American common law jurisprudence, the law has recognized that certain land uses cause unreasonable harm to neighboring landowners or the public at large.

The law has long recognized trespass, nuisance, both public and private, as well as other legal concepts, as both limiting and protecting the rights of landowners. More recently, both Federal and State statutes have protected the value that natural resources provide, measured as ecosystem services that include clean water and air quality wildlife and fish, and tourism.

The Land Use law resources cover the intersection where the legal rights of property ownership and use meet the rights of the public and other landowners- by government regulation or private action – to limit certain rights and uses. Topics include:  title to real property; heir property, common law claims, including trespass, nuisance and personal injury liability; hunting and timber rights; how property is zoned by local government; how society provides landowners incentives — through limitations of tort liability such as right to farm; Conservation incentives including cash payments and tax deductions for conservation easements and stream mitigation

Narrative Materials

(VOLUNTARY AGRICULTURAL DISTRICTS) Commentary on 2018 Changes to NC Voluntary Agricultural District Law (The NC General Assembly made an important change to NC’s voluntary agricultural district law, which has resulted in ordinances covering 90 NC counties)

(LAND TITLE) An Overview of Titling of Real Property (This short piece reviews the various forms of real property ownership)

(LIABILITY) A Comment on Tree Fall Liability (This short piece, written in response to questions that arise after hurricanes and other epic storms, provides an overview of the law concerning liability for trees that fall and cause damage to another’s property)


Timberlands Transfer and Liability Protection (Presentation on property transfer and premises liability)

Templates and Sample Documents

(VAD) Voluntary Agricultural District (VAD) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) DRAFT Template (The template may be used for extending the application of a Voluntary Agricultural District (VAD) county ordinance to an incorporated municipal area of the county)