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Thread: Expansion of nonconforming preexisting uses

  1. #1

    Expansion of nonconforming preexisting uses

    Our small village's zoning permits nonconforming preexisting uses to be expanded up to 25%. However, the zoning does not elaborate on how to calculate the baseline. We now have before the planning board a mobile home sales operation, which includes an office, a storage building, and a sales lot with several mobile homes and trailers on it. The use was grandfathered since it predates zoning in our village, but is nonconforming. The owner wants to build an additional storage building, and is arguing that the baseline - the size of the use from which to calculate the allowable expansion - should be calculated as the total lot area used for mobile homes sales, including the area used for displaying mobile homes and trailers as well as the existing buildings. He then argues that he should be permitted a building with a footprint of up to 25% of this total area. I think that the reasonable way to interpret the zoning is that the owner would be permitted to expand each element up to 25% - so he could add up to 25% more square footage of building and up to 25% additional lot area for display of mobile homes. However, this does seem to be a tricky issue. I would very much appreciate any thoughts on this one.
    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Here is your comeback, I had a similar problem.

    Fine you may expand up to the 25% you want for a storage building, but no new trailers can come on to the site for display or sale.

    Why?

    Because in our legislation once the use stops (ie the specific trailer being stored on the property) it can only recommence with the approval of the PAC. Guess who provides the reccomendation to the PAC? And guess who may not look favourably on the application if this conversation continues?

    Lots of winking and you understands seems to have quelled this persons urge to proceed.

    Your other comeback may be to increase the enforcement of your building By-law. Typically, we don't require building permits for trailer display, but technically we should. I inferred that we would be around for a building permit every time a trailer moved onto or around the lot, OR we could all be civilized and forget about the expansion and let things continue as they are.

    Guess what route the nonconforming use took?

  3. #3
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Re: Expansion of nonconforming preexisting uses

    SarahC wrote:
    Our small village's zoning permits nonconforming preexisting uses to be expanded up to 25%.
    A bit of an aside, but the whole idea of a use being "nonconforming" is that it be allowed to remain but fade away gracefully, not expand.

    Okay, I got that out. Without knowing specific code language, I'd say that the 25% number, if it's there, implies the increase from the overall intensity of the use -- that is, square footage of buildings, amount of stock, and amount of potential customer traffic -- from the time the use became nonconforming (adoption of the annexation, zoning code amendment or rezoning ordinance).
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  4. #4

    Yes, but only once...

    I agree with Dan's method of calculation, but keep in mind that this is a one time expansion. You should go back to when the laws were enacted and try to determine the size of the sales lot at that time. The expansion would be using that as your baseline beginning point.

    I also have to agree that expansion of a legal non-conformity is a problem in itself.

  5. #5
    Thanks everyone!

    I agree with Dan and Linden about the inappropriateness of expansion of a nonconforming use. However, 25% is better than the 50% that our zoning code used to permit.

    If anyone is interested, I will post our Village attorney's opinion on this matter, although I for one feel lawyers are not always the best interpreters of zoning.

    Thanks again.
    - Sarah

    PS -The issue of whether the display mobile homes count as buildings and thus require building permits is an interesting one which we have avoided since this issue has already become quite complicated. We already have the applicant scrambling for aerial photos from 1979, when our zoning was adopted, to prove what was on the site at that time!!!

  6. #6
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    [slight hijack]

    I've got a zoning code amendment pending that outright prohibits mobile home sales, and a bunch of other similar uses (RV sales, heavy equipment rental, etc.) in commercial zoning districts. The major traffic corridor through our town turns to a "redneck retail" corridor in the next town, and the thought of banning more obnoxious "mechanical commercial" uses and greatly limiting others has been embraced by my P&Z and Town Commissions. Otherwise, the strip through our town would just be an extension of the existing agglomeration of motor home dealers, camper shell dealers, shed dealers, construction equipment rental businesses, tractor trailer dealers, body shops, and so on.

    I'm amazed that the bulk of a city's retail sector is dominated by vehicle and construction related uses. Are there any other cities where there's no normal retail base, where there's nothing but "mechanical commercial?" What are the demographics of such municipalities?

    [/slight hijack]
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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