From Land Use Law and Zoning Digest, May 2003:
• NONCONFORMING USES (55 ZD 262)— A sorority house built in Norman, Oklahoma, in 1930 became a nonconforming use in 1954, when the property was rezoned to the single-family residential classification. In 1958, the house was sold to a church for use as a retirement home for 20 to 22 women. The city declined to rezone the property to a classification that would permit a boarding house, but decided that the use was a “private club,” a permitted use in the single-family residential zone. In 1985, the retirement home became a nonconforming use when private clubs were eliminated as an allowed use. In 2000, Triangle Fraternity bought the house and sought a boarding house license, required by the city for all fraternities and sororities. After neighbors objected, the city determined that the fraternity house use would not be a continuation of the nonconforming private club use, and that rezoning was required to allow the fraternity house use. On appeal, the trial and appeals courts affirmed, but the highest court reversed, holding that the proposed fraternity house use is substantially the same as the former use and is allowed as a continuance of the existing nonconforming use. The court acknowledged that the fraternity hopes to have 22 to 23 members occupy the house and 45 to 60 members who will attend meetings and parties, including parties involving alcohol, but stated that “the only real difference between the fraternity’s proposed use and the church’s prior use of the property is the age of the occupants coupled with an increase in the volume, intensity, and frequency of social gatherings.” It then concluded that the “mere increase in volume, intensity, or frequency” is insufficient to invalidate the nonconforming use. Triangle Fraternity v. City of Norman, Supreme Court of Oklahoma [highest court], Decided October 115, 2002, Rehearing denied February 3, 2003, 63 P.3d 1.