Manhattan high-rise may violate zoning laws

If there's a cardinal rule to real estate development that everyone should remember it's this: Get the zoning regulations down correctly before you start building.

Anything less can lead to a situation like the one that developers are experiencing over a 30-story condo in Manhattan that could be about five stories too tall. If a city official has her way, the building may have to be drastically remodeled and downsized to fit the rules -- a serious (and expensive) penalty for a zoning violation.

New York's changing skyline has been an issue that's already caused intense conflicts between developers who want to expand and residents who feel like their enjoyment of life is being impaired by the spectacle of tall buildings towering over them everywhere, blocking out the sky.

Tall buildings are a developer's dream. They afford residents a beautiful view, high above the city -- and a great price for the developers and investors who have put money into the projects.

An investigation into exactly how the building was permitted to be built. The architect denies that anything was done to violate the area's zoning regulations. City officials, however, are calling the building an act of fraud.

Zoning challenges are common -- but not once the building is already done. The last time a builder was forced to remove floors from a building in New York was almost 30 years ago, in 1991.

Given the seriousness of the complaint and the potential problems that result when zoning rules are violated, it's important to resolve zoning disputes early -- before they become costly.