Here is the situation:
The City where I live (but not where I work) has a rooming house downtown. It is a huge impediment to development of adjacent lands. It has basically created a vacuum around it where no business wants to go because this building houses transients and sex offenders.
From what I understand the building is legal non-conforming and the use as a rooming house is also legal non-conforming.
Well a couple of months ago one of the people who lives there set the place on fire in an attempt to commit suicide (now you get an idea about the kind of people who live there). The building was significantly damaged and it is believed the damage was in excess of 50% of the value.
Wisconsin State Statutes require Cities to allow a person to rebuild a non-conforming building if it was destroyed by fire "if the structure will be restored to the size, location, and use that it had immediately before the damage or destruction occurred...." Therefore, the statute only permits restoration of the "structure" if the property will be restored to the "use" it had immediately before the damage. However I would think that assumes the use of the structure was a permitted use at the time of the fire.
State statute also addresses non-conforming uses in this manner: “The continued lawful use of a building, premises, structure, or fixture existing at the time of the adoption or amendment of a zoning ordinance may not be prohibited although the use does not conform with the provisions of the ordinance. The nonconforming use may not be extended. The total structural repairs or alterations in such a nonconforming building, premises, structure, or fixture shall not during its life exceed 50 percent of the assessed value of the building, premises, structure, or fixture unless permanently changed to a conforming use. If the nonconforming use is discontinued for a period of 12 months, any
future use of the building, premises, structure, or fixture shall conform to the ordinance.”
This section does not have the "destroyed by fire" exemption that the section on non-conforming structures has.
So since both the use and the building are non-conforming can the City prevent them from rebuilding and opening as a rooming house again?
Any input would be appreciated.