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Thread: When does it stop being an addition and become a teardown?

  1. #1
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    When does it stop being an addition and become a teardown?

    I searched through previous threads, but couldn't find anything, so I ask this question:

    How does your municipality make the distinction between an addition and effectively the full demolition of the structure?

    Here's a scenario: Someone wishes to expand their house, but the house is on a nonconforming lot. If this lot was vacant it would not be buildable, but your muni wants to accommodate expansions of existing buildings on nonconforming lots. Ms. Houseowner proposes expansion plans that leave only the existing foundation and one exterior wall of the existing house. Would this still be an addition or a teardown/full demolition?

    I ask because the section in our zoning code for the highest density single family district that allows nonconforming lots to be buildable has an absolute minimum lot size and width that is greater than a sizable number of currently developed lots (ie they have houses on them).

    Currently, this section is worded vaguely and could be interpreted to prevent additions to existing houses on unbuildable nonconforming lots.

    With an upcoming change to this section, I want to make it explicit that additions to existing houses on unbuildable nonconforming lots are permitted, but I also want to provide a clear distinction between "addition" and "full demolition".
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Every day is today. Yesterday is a myth and tomorrow an illusion.

    You know...for kids.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    It sounds to me like the question is how badly does the local body want to eliminate nonconforming use.

    I think a reasonable view zoning-wise is to view the building's footprint. If the addition doesn't make space or setback encroachments worse, then the glove should fit.

    In building code viewpoints if you remove most of the building's "value" or cost, then you are building new.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    I'm not sure that you have a lot of control in this situation. In fact, the real question may be "when does this stop being a non-conforming use and start being a taking?"

    Generally, codes I've seen allow almost anything to be done (within reason) as long as it isn't larger than the building that currently exists. So, if your non-conforming house burns to the ground, you have the right to rebuild a house up to the same size as the one you had before. Maybe you need a special permit, maybe not.

    I guess the real question is how big the resulting building will be once it's complete. If it's larger, then the excess size can probably be prohibited. If not, Ms. Homeowner is just exercising her property rights. Of course, if there are other issues besides lot size (coastal zones, business uses, etc.) then the process becomes more complex.

    This code example seems to be a nice compromise: One year to rebuild, nothing larger than what existed before, and after a certain date rebuilding is subject to a special permit. It lets people know that a change is coming (amortizing their investment) and allows the jurisdiction to control rebuilding in case some non-conforming uses would actually be nuisances.

    http://www.qcode.us/codes/sacramento...104-17_104_030

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    We have odd rules when it comes to this situation. If the roof stay ups while walls are added/rebuilt and then the roof comes down and a new one is built over the new walls it is considered an addition. If the owner takes down the roof and the walls at the same time it is not considered a rebuild.

    It take the contractors longer but if someone wants to improve their property and take the extra step so be it.

  5. #5
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Thanks for the help so far. Keep it coming.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Every day is today. Yesterday is a myth and tomorrow an illusion.

    You know...for kids.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    It might be useful to look up flood insurance rules reagarding this kind of thing. For example, they prohibit rebuilding in a flood zone if a structure is damaged more than x%. At least it's kind of a precedent for what constitutes a "new" structure.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    My fair village has a 50% assessed value requirement. If the addition is worth more than 50% of the assessed value of the home, it's a tear down. This is one of those politically sensible rules that is horrible for staff to implement. Whose assessed value do we use? The appraisers value? The County's value?

    Not ideal, but there it is.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by southsideamy View post
    My fair village has a 50% assessed value requirement. If the addition is worth more than 50% of the assessed value of the home, it's a tear down. This is one of those politically sensible rules that is horrible for staff to implement. Whose assessed value do we use? The appraisers value? The County's value?

    Not ideal, but there it is.
    That's how we do it here and in a former jurisdiction where I worked in California. Always a total cluster f@&$.
    Habitual Offender

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater View post
    It might be useful to look up flood insurance rules reagarding this kind of thing. For example, they prohibit rebuilding in a flood zone if a structure is damaged more than x%. At least it's kind of a precedent for what constitutes a "new" structure.
    In our flooplain management ordinance -
    “Substantial improvement” means any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition or other improvement of a structure, the cost of which equals or exceeds 40 percent of the market value of the structure before the “start of construction” of the improvement. This term includes structures which have incurred “substantial damage” regardless of the actual repair work performed. The term does not include improvements of structures to correct existing violations of state or local health, sanitary, or safety code requirements or any alteration of a “historic structure”, provided that the alteration will not preclude the structures continued designation as a “historic structure”.

    “Substantial damage” means damage which decreases the market value of a structure by fifty (50) percent or more
    ____________________________________________________________________

    2. Structural alterations made to:

    a. an existing building, that has not previously been altered, the cost of which equals or exceeds forty (40) percent of the value of the pre-altered building (excluding the value of the land);

    b. any previously altered building;

    3. Reconstruction or repairs made to a damaged building that are valued at more than forty (40) percent of the market value of the building (excluding the value of the land) before damages occurred;

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