Nonconforming Use Legal Issues

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When an expansion of non-compliant business activities is proposed, the case law is somewhat less clear. If roads and structures built on land used for gravel extraction showed the owner`s intention to use the entire property, the court ruled that the extension of mining operations to another location on the property was permitted. However, the addition of a body toning operation to the premises where a non-compliant beauty salon was located was considered a prohibited extension of the previous non-compliant use. The court`s interest in protecting the owner`s proven investment in gravel mining may explain the difference between these cases. A non-compliant use is a land use or structure that was legal prior to the passage of a zoning order that makes the use or structure illegal. Examples: Can I change the use of my property from a non-compliant use to another non-compliant use or add a use that does not conform to the property? The court ruled that improvements made by a company to its facilities that increased production did not increase improper use, violating a city`s order. The City`s Non-Compliant Use Ordinance does not explicitly prohibit the intensification of non-compliant uses. How can I be sure that a use is a non-compliant use that can be continued? The existing valid non-compliant use of the mining operation was subject to the subsequent order of the county police, which required the operation to obtain a grading permit before it could complete its ongoing excavation and resupply operations. State laws that give local governments the power to enact zoning regulations implicitly empower local legislators to take reasonable steps to protect the legitimate investment expectations of developed land owners. However, these enabling laws do not expressly refer to the authority of local legislators to authorize the continuation of non-compliant uses. Potential buyers and lenders often want to be sure, during their due diligence, that the current use of a property will be recognized by the municipality as non-compliant use. To facilitate such requests, many, but not all, municipalities maintain records of uses that do not comply with the law. A landowner – if they realize that their use is not permitted under the applicable zoning ordinance, but may continue as a non-compliant use – may register that use.

The registration, once confirmed by the zoning officer, will then be used as proof of the legal non-compliance status of the use. This page contains information about municipal regulations for non-compliant uses in Washington State, including relevant court decisions and examples of local ordinances. The policy to continue to allow non-compliant uses stems from concerns that the application of zoning by-laws to uses that existed prior to the enactment of the by-law could be interpreted as confiscatory and unconstitutional. It was assumed that by limiting their expansion and reconstruction, they would disappear over time. Approval of non-compliant uses has been characterized by the courts as “reluctant tolerance”; The right of municipalities to take appropriate measures to eliminate them has been recognized. The ultimate goal of the zoning code is to standardize land use in each zoning district, which can only be achieved by eliminating uses that do not meet the specifications of the county bylaws. When passing zoning by-laws, the local legislature is primarily concerned with the separation of incompatible uses between zoning districts. If a building that existed prior to the zoning requirements does not comply with the residue, area or height restrictions, it is not a non-compliant use in the technical sense. It simply does not comply with the dimensional requirements of zoning: a non-compliant building. Because non-compliant buildings do not violate the legislative policy of separating incompatible uses, zoning by-laws often do not restrict their expansion or reconstruction as much. For example, a typical zoning determination may require that no extension or reconstruction of a non-compliant building can increase the level of non-compliance or cause new non-compliance. Jose (Jay) is a senior writer and editor-in-chief of the LegalMatch team.

He joined LegalMatch in March 2010. He contributes to the law library section of the company`s website by writing on a wide range of legal topics. His articles aim to provide understandable and easy-to-read explanations of legal issues often asked by people with legal requests. Jose is also a contributor to LegalMatch`s legal blog, which reports on current events and developments in the legal field. He is the author of an e-book for LegalMatch titled “Everything You Need to Know About Hiring a Lawyer.” Jose holds a J.D. from the U.C. Davis School of Law and a B.A. in Sociology from U.C. Berkeley. He also has experience in general digital marketing, SEO, and content management. When not working, Jose enjoys listening to music and studying jazz guitar. Non-compliant use may be terminated if it is determined that the use is discontinued.

If a use is interrupted for at least one year, it is generally assumed that it will be discontinued. If use is completed, all future uses on the property must comply with applicable zoning regulations. A use must be maintained continuously to qualify for non-compliance status. This means that a use must be used without interruption or at least recurring. Each situation is evaluated individually, but a short interruption of use is generally not considered a cancellation. When is improper use abandoned by the owner? The use of the land must be determined prior to the passage of the zoning ordinance in order to be considered a non-compliant use thereafter. The mere acquisition of immovable property and its use is not sufficient to establish an existing non-conforming use.

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