My City has many small older buildings (mostly single family residences) that are non-conforming to the current regulations. Generally this means that they have a lesser side or front yard than we would require today.
The current Zoning Ordinance allows for "minor" additions to non-conforming structures (have you guessed the problem yet?) with a use permit. So the ongoing question is what is "minor" . And moreover, where is the line between "minor addition and remodel" and "complete demolition and rebuild". Lately people have been demolishing everything except for the framing of the wall that is non-conforming so that they can leave it in a place where it could not be rebuilt (One wall standing is the Building Code rule so the Building Inspectors are no help).
The intent is to allow small improvements, but for buildings to come into compliance as soon as possible. To compound the problem we have a valuation limit to the amount of structural or non-structural modifications to non-conforming buildings that can be made in a 5-year period before it must be brought into compliance. But who assigns the value (actual costs or standard price per square foot) and who tracks it? This rule is so cumbersome and untrackable that we essentially ignore it.
There must be a better way! Any suggestions?