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Can zoning laws threaten your business operations?

Zoning laws apply to residential and commercial property owners alike. Unfortunately, when the dispute impacts commercial operations, the financial viability of your business may be at stake. Alabama company recently learned this lesson the hard way.

The company, Sumiton Timber Company, operates a rail yard in Jefferson County through which sewage sludge is transferred. Trains, arriving from New York and New Jersey, are unloaded onto trucks. The cargo is then transported to a local landfill.  

The company is currently fighting a zoning lawsuit in federal district court. Jefferson county filed a complaint, seeking to enjoin Sumiton Timber from transporting and unloading sewage sludge in the yard. The county alleged that the resulting odor violated current zoning laws and impacted nearby residents’ quality of life. Specifically, a restrictive covenant authorizes only pulpwood yard operations, not the transport of sewage sludge.      

When faced with a zoning dispute, our real estate law firm quickly pursues all strategic options. One example is a temporary restraining order, where the court allows a business to continue its operations until a final determination is made at trial. 

In this case, the company successfully obtained a temporary restraining order preventing Jefferson County authorities from enforcing the zoning laws. However, the District Court Judge recently lifted that order, stating that the company had not established that it had a strong likelihood of prevailing at trial.

Whether you are proactively seeing due diligence about a proposed commercial transaction or you are facing a zoning lawsuit, we have the experience to help you navigate municipal codes and local zoning laws. To learn more about our real estate practice, check out our website.

Source:, “Judge: Jeffco can act on stinky NY, NJ waste imports,” Dennis Pillion, Jan. 22, 2018

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