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Subdivision Variance exemptions in legal non-conforming lots

Coragus

Cyburbian
Messages
1,296
Points
24
Rather than automatically having to get a variance, do any of you have zoning ordinances that allow for some sort of automatic exemption for legal non-conforming lots? A township I work with has a lot of small lake lots with places that were built before there was a zoning ordinance. Every time one of the owners of those homes wants to do something, they almost always need a variance. Is there a way that other places get around this without requireing a variance?

This is one, extreme, example. A guy wants to tear down his existing weekend shack and build a new home. His proposed new home is completely within setbacks. However, there is an existing 9X30 shed that is 1 foot from the front and a side lot line. Even though the owner's plans don't call for him to touch the shed, he still has to get a variance for the legal non-conforming shed.

Let me state that I'm only asked about this because I was told to research it by the Planning Commission. I am personally opposed to any kind of automatic exemption mechanism. Also, the petitioners aren't the ones who are complaining. They are happy to fork over the fee, just so they can build their houses.
 

SGB

Cyburbian
Messages
3,387
Points
25
Coragus said:
Rather than automatically having to get a variance, do any of you have zoning ordinances that allow for some sort of automatic exemption for legal non-conforming lots?
Yup. It's called a zoning amendment. Create a new district for the lake properties that allows the current setbacks by right.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
Absolutely

Our code:

Lots of record at the time the ordinace was adopted which are nonconforming due to area, width, or both, are buildable lots by right provided that the setback and FAR requirements are met, and provided that at least 75% of the parcel is preserved in open space.
 

Seabishop

Cyburbian
Messages
3,838
Points
25
Yes. It is very handy here where a lot of old house lots are dimensionally non-conforming.

"If a residentially zoned lot of record at the time of passage of this ordinance does not contain sufficient lot area to meet all dimensional requirements of the district in which it is located, but does contain sufficient area to meet all setback requirements of such district, the building inspector may issue a building permit for the construction of one (1) single family dwelling only. Said permit shall be issued only upon the determination by the zoning officer that the substandard lot is not a candidate for merger under subsection 3.3-2.1."
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
Oh - we also allow use of average setbacks of adjacent prop[erties on infill lots, and expansions of nonconforming structures where the expansion does not increase the degree of nonconformity (ex: a home with a 3' east setback could be expanded to the north provided the expansion has a setback of at least 3').
 

SGB

Cyburbian
Messages
3,387
Points
25
Re: Re: Variance exemptions in legal non-conforming lots

SGB said:
Yup. It's called a zoning amendment. Create a new district for the lake properties that allows the current setbacks by right.
I've learned something new already today. I like the other suggestions much better than mine!
 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
Messages
1,371
Points
29
Automatic waivers for such situations are actually pretty common. Most are like the one Chet describes, based on the averages on the lots in the neighborhood. I don't know your situation. Perhaps this lot is an unusual one, but in many older neighborhoods the automatic waivers save a lot of work. Another thing I sometimes do in writing codes, is make certain situations, including legal nonconforming lots, sufficient grounds for the required findings for a variance. That doesn't take away the administrative hassle of obtaining/issuing a variance, but it does give the BOA or whoever issues variances clear direction.
 

UPPlanner

Member
Messages
16
Points
1
zoning standards

this is related to my topic, on having to GET a variance, why is it that when I need to put in a parking space, I am held to a standard in the zoning that states a driveway must be 3ft from the property line, but the neighbors drive comes right up TO my lot line? How can one individual entity be held to a HIGHER standard than anyone else in the neighborhood, epsecially when most of the lots are nonconforming to begin with, the zoning was implemented in 1965, our houses were constructed in the late 1800's!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I don't really have a qualm about the fee, even though it IS a 100 bucks, I still do not feel like I am obligated to pay it, however, I will be going through my neighborhood and noting all the violations of the zoning and bringing to the attention of the administrator, if I am going to be held to the letter of the law, then so should everyone else.
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
Here is what our By-law says with respect to undersized lots:

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.

If the applicant can't meet the requirements then a variance may be appropriate.

As for UPPlanner's dilemma, don't forget that variances are supposed to be heard on their own merits and are to be considered in the context of the property for which they are requested. As such, your neighbour may request something and be approved, you may request the exact same thing and be denied.
 
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