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On April 30, 2014, The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) granted accreditation to the NALA Certified Paralegal program for demonstrating compliance with the NCCA Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs. NCCA is the accrediting body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. The NCCA Standards were created to ensure certification programs adhere to modern standards of practice for the certification industry.  The NALA Certified Paralegal program joins an elite group of more than 120 organizations representing over 270 certification programs that have received and maintained NCCA accreditation. More information on the NCCA is available online at www.credentialingexcellence.org/NCCA

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Real Estate-Land Use

This page summarizes the Land Use Advanced Paralegal Certification. Use the links below to review the items, register or login to the course. If you have not already registered as a user on the NALA APC web site, click "Register for the Course." If you have already registered for this or another APC course, you have already created a user account, click "Login."

Paralegals who are not seeking the Advanced Paralegal Certification credential are welcome to register and take any APC courses as advanced continuing education programs. CLE credit is available upon completion of the courses from NALA for Certified Paralegals, and from various state CLE programs.

Prerequisite Knowledge Learning Contract Register for the course
Fee:   $250 Members; $300 Non Members

Course Description

This course provides an overview of zoning and land-use regulation. Zoning is a type of public control that places many limits on how land is used. Each city or county places all its properties into zones for residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, or other uses. Land-use regulations vary widely from state to state, county to county, and city to city. Property owners can sometimes make requests for changes to the permitted uses and prohibited uses with applications for conditional uses, variances, zoning changes, or other requests. A paralegal can assist an attorney in many ways throughout the approval process for development projects or in challenging the uses or planned uses of land, which have been raised by neighbors, governments, or business entities. After completing this land-use course, a paralegal may assist in these ways:

  • Obtain copies of state or federal statutes
  • Research case law on client's issues
  • Use and become proficient with the city or county zoning and planning website
  • Obtain copies of the city or county zoning and planning ordinances
  • Obtain copies of any zoning and planning formulas, qualitative or quantitative information,   spreadsheets, maps, diagrams, flow charts, tables, appendices
  • Identify the zone in which a client's real property is located
  • Identify the permitted uses of the client's property within that zone
  • Understand and obtain the zoning code's definitions related to the client's issue
  • Determine if the client's request fits within a conditional or accessory use within that zone
  • Determine the type of application the client should use such as subdivision application, condominium, construction application, building permit, remodeling permit, variance, conditional use permit, zoning change, tax lot adjustment, combining tax lots,
    and obtain it
  • Collect information about previous decisions from the city or county planning department to assist in accessing the client's chances for success
  • Visit and obtain factual or legal information from planning board or department
  • At the city or count offices, research and obtain factual or legal information from previous planning board or department decisions of the client, of the property, of the neighboring properties or other related matters
  • Determine the rule making procedure for city or county planning board or department
  • Determine what elements of procedural due process are allowed or required at in-person conferences, hearings, trials, and appeals; such elements might include notices, witnesses, experts, cross-examination, jury trials, representation by attorneys and exhibits
  • Obtain information about neighboring properties, if related to the client's issue
  • Obtain copies of any private covenants or deed restrictions from the client's deed, abstract or title report, or recorded survey
  • Assist in developing alternative plans for client's project
  • Assist in developing strategies for administrative proceedings, court litigation, or appeals
  • Obtain information about deadlines after an application is filed or a process begins; develop a time line for client

Prerequisite Knowledge

Those taking this course should be familiar with the following:

  • U.S. Constitution
  • State constitutions and legislation
  • Statutes of limitations
  • Damages and remedies
  • Practice and procedure forms
  • Internet research

Course Modules

The Advanced Paralegal Certification course on Land Use consists of successful completion of 12 modules of text, assessments, and assignments.  The modules and their objectives are as follows:

An overview of basic topics in land-use regulation, including the origins and purposes of regulations, types of land-use controls, nuisance, zoning, environmental and taxation controls, servitudes, licenses, liens, and eminent domain. The role of the paralegal and practice tips are also discussed.
1. Zoning Authority
How state legislatures: 1) delegate authority to local governments to enact and revise zoning ordinances; 2) zoning enabling statutes modeled after the U. S. Department of Commerce’s Standard State Zoning Enabling Act (SZEA); 3) functions of local government in land-use and zoning law; 4) public participation in land-use laws and regulations; exclusionary and inclusionary zoning; 5) regional governments and interstate agreements; 6) federal authority and preemption; authority for zoning for public purposes; 7) and the power of local government to exercise eminent domain to acquire property for public purposes.
2. Zoning for Land Use
Zoning maps, districts, ordinances, and terminology; site development standards; permissible and prohibited uses; intensity, density, and compatibility; cumulative and exclusive use; the four basic types of zones: residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural; mixed-use, floating, buffer, and overlay zones; accessory uses; nonconforming uses; and variances, exceptions, and conditional uses.
3. Administrative and Agency Rule and Decision Making
The function and authority of administrative agencies to regulate land use; administrative procedure at the local, state, and federal levels; legislative and quasi-judicial authority; administrative standards and guidelines; agency officers and agents; authority to make rules and regulations; rule making procedure; hearings and hearing officers; and procedures to review administrative actions.
4. Constitutional Framework
The effect of the US Constitution on the authority of government to regulate land use and the validity of related legislation and administrative actions; facial and as-applied violations; substantive due process and procedural due process; the Takings Clause, types of takings, and required compensation; the Equal Protection Clause and related legislation; the Free Speech Clause as it relates to commercial speech, billboards, political signs, and time, place, and manner restrictions; the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses, religious use, and religious freedom legislation; antitrust legislation; and the effect of the Supremacy Clause and the "Dormant" Supremacy Clause.
5. Comprehensive Planning
An overview of developments in short-term and long-term comprehensive urban planning since the Industrial Revolution; the role and tools of the urban planner, and their relationship to land-use regulation; planning enabling statutes modeled after the US Department of Commerce’s Standard City Planning Enabling Act (SCPEA); content and authority for creation of master and comprehensive plans; the planning process; zoning "in accordance with a comprehensive plan"; internal and overall consistency requirements; takings claims; and judicial review of planning actions.
6. Subdivisions
The process and requirements for subdivision and development of property; legal descriptions in deeds; statutory definitions of subdivisions; growth management, planning, zoning, and subdivisions; local government authority for subdivision regulations; form requirements and contents of plats; types of subdivision controls; impact fees and other exactions required for approval of development plans; subdivision approval process and requirements; nonconforming uses and the establishment of vested rights of developers.
7. Environmental Regulations and Protection
Administrative agencies and regulations that serve to protect environmentally sensitive and endangered areas and species; the US Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and the federal statutes they administer; protection of wetlands; dredging and filling permits; floodplain, floodway, and flood fringe protections; right-to-farm laws and other farmland preservation strategies; protection of endangered species and habitats; water quality standards and regulations of pollutants in rivers, streams, and lakes; federal and state air quality standards and implementation plans; regulation of coastal areas and coastal management programs; and remedial and removal actions for hazardous waste, including "Superfund" legislation.
8. Aesthetics and Preservation of Property
This module discusses land-use ordinances and regulations designed to promote and preserve aesthetic characteristics of property and neighborhoods; aesthetics as a basis or a factor in land-use regulations; administrative standards for aesthetic restrictions; scenic view sheds in view corridors; aesthetic compatibility and administrative standards for architecture, including buildings, improvements, and landscaping; federal historic preservation statutes and national historic landmark preservation; regulation of signs, billboards, and murals; and restrictions and standards for junkyards and landfills.
9. Growth Management
Problems and issues to be addressed by local governments to manage city growth and expansion; establishment of a city, incorporation, and annexation of additional territory; urban sprawl and efforts to control it, including urban growth boundaries, cluster zoning, and planned unit developments; growth control measures such as moratoria, interim controls, population caps, service denial, timing and phasing of growth, and concurrency requirements; infrastructure finance strategies, such as developer agreements, impact fees, linkage fees, and tax increment financing; taxes, regulatory fees, and impact fees; growth management programs such as Smart Growth and New Urbanism principles; and state initiatives and legislation to develop growth management programs.
10. Processes for Land Owners and Developers
Procedures available to landowners and developers to request changes to the permitted and prohibited uses with applications for conditional uses, variances, zoning changes, or other requests; processes for getting development projects approval by local administrative authorities; processes and requirements for obtaining building and occupancy permits, special use permits, and conditional use permits; nonconforming uses and requirements for obtaining variances on the grounds of unnecessary hardship, lack of return on investment, or practical difficulties; local governments and administrative authorities and their functions in reviewing and permitting development plans and projects; requests for rezoning and zoning ordinance amendments; and administrative decisions and administrative paths to appeal adverse decisions.
11. Litigation and Remedies
Actions and decisions of local legislative and administrative bodies and their impact on landowners and developers; litigation options to address adverse government actions, including appeals, writs of certiorari, collateral actions, and declaratory judgments; specific types of collateral actions, including condemnation, tort claims, preemptive slander suits, and actions pursuant to §1983 of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1871; eligibility of various parties to participate in land-use regulation litigation; jurisdiction and appropriate forums for land-use litigation; defenses to actions, including the exhaustion of remedies doctrine, statutes of limitation, latches, estoppel, vested rights, labor, and immunities; remedies available to aggrieved owners and developers, such as writs of mandamus, injunctions, specific relief requested, compensation for takings, and money damages; and enforcement of zoning ordinances and regulations by public and private parties. Finally, a summary of topics covered in the course and issues likely to be prevalent in future land-use regulation are discussed.