Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 10 of 10

Thread: Removal of Nonconforming Structures

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Central Coast, California
    Posts
    7

    Removal of Nonconforming Structures

    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?

  2. #2
         
    Registered
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Funky Town, CO.
    Posts
    432
    The short answer is to change your code to allow more flexability with these lawful non-conforming sites. Do the current standards support the character of the area or were they created for new development on green sites? It doesn't sound like the current code is working anyway. Most likely these homes were built years ago and not by the current owners. The homes might of even been conforming at one time until your code was changed.

    One place I worked almost the entire original old town was non-conforming when it came to setbacks. It was a former coal mining town with many small miner shacks/cottages. Most of these homes were only 1 to 3 feet from the side property lines and 10 to 15-feet from the street. The Zoning Board of Appeals was kept very busy with variance requests whenever someone wanted to increase the size of their home and continue the same building line or add a second floor. Staff surveyed the old town, created standards that most people and staff could live with and created an overlay district for that part of town. It just didn't make sense to place suburban standards on neighborhoods that were built in the 19th Century prior to any standards. It greatly reduced the variance requests and allowed people to improve their homes. Last year this community was named as a very desirable place to live by Money magazine

    I now work in a community that adopted infill standards were we allow setbacks to be equal to the average of the existing structures on the a block face. This is a bit harder to administer and staff has to determine the setbacks using our GIS program. The setbacks are different block to block and can change over time as buildings change.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Cold and Wet in ND
    Posts
    181
    If I am understanding correctly this whole problem would be solved by a variance. If you change the zoning to increase the sideyard, decrease allowable lot coverage, etc. it is grandfathered until it is altered obviously so you can set up a process that in order for them to alter the structure they have to either not increase the non-conformity or apply for a variance that would require them to go throught the proper channels and would be scrutinized enough so you wouldn't need a definition of "minor".

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    The Cheese State
    Posts
    10,015
    Madison, Wisconsin rewrote its codes a few years ago to address the problem of people in older neighborhoods with non-complying homes who wanted to put on an addition. This is only going to address problems like a small addition. You have another issue - people wanting to abuse the allowance in order to essentially put up a new home. I think I would approach it by modifying both the definition of "minor" and your value ordinance. For instance, you might allow a variance for an addition to a non-complying home so long as the value of the improvements requested did not exceed fifteen percent of the assessed value, and the value of the new improvements plus all of the improvements in the last five years did not exceed twenty-five percent of the home's current assessed value. Another way to attempt it would be to limit the square footage of any new addition
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Feb 2004
    Location
    ????
    Posts
    1,184
    Following along the lines of Senior Jefe, I would look into some of the old mining towns. I think Park City UT has an overlay ordinance over their old town. SLC just adopted a compatible infill ordinance that essentially lists the standard for an over the counter building permit, and then allows for some reductions of setbacks or increase in height based on the development pattern of the block face. Doing this does create more of a burden when it comes to checking the plans.

    Another option may be to include in your code a definition of minor and substantial alteration. Some things to consider may be to include a percentage of the wall face that is to be changed, so that if x% of the wall is going to be structurally altered, it must be brought into compliance, or if x% of the structure is altered under a permit, then the entire structure must be brought into compliance. This seriously complicates the ordinance and the enforcement of it though.

    Perhaps the simplest thing would be to develop a special exception process that makes the determination a staff level deal based on the approval of the adjacent property owners?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
    Registered
    Sep 2001
    Location
    skating on thin ice
    Posts
    6,958
    You may also want to take a look at amending your zonign to reflect entire neighbourhhods. We have that where I work now.

    Here is how I have delt with it in the past. This does nothing to prevent tear down, reconstruction, but at least provides some guidance and rules that are reasonable.

    EXISTING UNDERSIZED LOTS
    3.1.9 Nothing in this By-law shall prevent the use of a lot provided: that the use of such lot is permitted in the zone in which said lot is located; and that the setbacks, height, coverage and all other relevant requirements of the zone are maintained.

    EXISTING BUILDINGS
    3.1.10 Where a building has been erected on or before the effective date of this By-law, on a lot having less than the minimum frontage, area, or depth, or having less than the minimum setback or side yard or rear yard required by this By-law, the building may be enlarged, reconstructed, repaired or renovated provided that:
    a) the enlargement, reconstruction, repair or renovation does not further reduce any
    yard that does not conform to this By-law; and
    b) all other applicable provisions of this By-law are satisfied
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    The Cheese State
    Posts
    10,015
    Quote Originally posted by cololi
    ...Perhaps the simplest thing would be to develop a special exception process that makes the determination a staff level deal based on the approval of the adjacent property owners?
    I doubt that would be legal.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  8. #8
    (for now) Frozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    Staff meeting
    Posts
    8,703
    I agree with amending your Zoning code to make these non-comforming buildings conforming, provided that they are all in the same general area.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Feb 2004
    Location
    ????
    Posts
    1,184
    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    I doubt that would be legal.
    I think it all depends on the type and level of impact of the special exception and if the state statutes allow such a thing. There are also some administrative hearings, where a notice is sent out, people are given x number of days to repsond, if they don't respond, the thing gets approved. If they do respond, they schedule a regular public hearing before the Planning COmmisison.

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Central Coast, California
    Posts
    7
    I think that you've hit the nail on the head - the current requirement does not support the character of the area that is one of the nicest in town. So why would we want to require 5-foot side yards where 3-feet is the norm in the area? To my knowledge the fire and building departments in this city would accept the lesser setback.

    Quote Originally posted by Senior Jefe
    The short answer is to change your code to allow more flexability with these lawful non-conforming sites. Do the current standards support the character of the area or were they created for new development on green sites? It doesn't sound like the current code is working anyway. Most likely these homes were built years ago and not by the current owners. The homes might of even been conforming at one time until your code was changed.

    One place I worked almost the entire original old town was non-conforming when it came to setbacks. It was a former coal mining town with many small miner shacks/cottages. Most of these homes were only 1 to 3 feet from the side property lines and 10 to 15-feet from the street. The Zoning Board of Appeals was kept very busy with variance requests whenever someone wanted to increase the size of their home and continue the same building line or add a second floor. Staff surveyed the old town, created standards that most people and staff could live with and created an overlay district for that part of town. It just didn't make sense to place suburban standards on neighborhoods that were built in the 19th Century prior to any standards. It greatly reduced the variance requests and allowed people to improve their homes. Last year this community was named as a very desirable place to live by Money magazine

    I now work in a community that adopted infill standards were we allow setbacks to be equal to the average of the existing structures on the a block face. This is a bit harder to administer and staff has to determine the setbacks using our GIS program. The setbacks are different block to block and can change over time as buildings change.

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Account Removal Request
    Cyburbia Issues and Help
    Replies: 1
    Last post: 20 Nov 2009, 1:50 AM
  2. Removal of on-street parking
    Transportation Planning
    Replies: 5
    Last post: 30 Sep 2009, 4:14 PM
  3. Snow Removal
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 35
    Last post: 16 Dec 2008, 3:18 PM
  4. Account removal request
    Cyburbia Issues and Help
    Replies: 4
    Last post: 22 Jan 2008, 11:55 PM
  5. Gravel removal bylaw
    Land Use and Zoning
    Replies: 2
    Last post: 26 Jul 2007, 9:48 AM