Nonconforming Use

Also found in: Financial, Encyclopedia.

Nonconforming Use

Continuing use of real property, permitted by Zoning ordinances, in a manner in which other similar plots of land in the same area cannot ordinarily be used.Most municipal governments have enacted zoning ordinances that regulate the development of real estate within the municipality. The municipality is divided into zoning districts that permit a particular use of property: residence, business, or industry. Within these three main types of zoning districts, population density and building height may also be restricted. Zoning attempts to conserve the value of property and to encourage the most appropriate use of land throughout a particular locality.

When zoning is established, however, the ordinance cannot eliminate structures already in existence. Thus, if a district is zoned residential, the corner grocery store and neighborhood service station become nonconforming use sites. These businesses may remain even though they do not fit the predominant classification of real property in the zoning district.

As long as the property having nonconforming use status does not change, its status is protected. Problems arise, however, when change occurs. In general, substantial alterations in the nature of the business, new equipment that is not a replacement but a subterfuge to expand the use of the property, or a new structure amount to illegal expansion or extension. These types of actions will result in the loss of the nonconforming use status and the closing of the business. For example, if the corner grocery builds an addition to house a restaurant, that would be a significant change. If, however, the grocery updates its refrigeration equipment, that would not be an illegal change.

If a nonconforming use structure is destroyed or partially destroyed by fire or similar occurrences, zoning ordinances generally provide that if it is destroyed beyond a certain percentage, it cannot be rebuilt. Usually the owner loses the right to rebuild if 50 percent or more of the structure is damaged.

If a business stops operating at the nonconforming use site, zoning ordinances generally classify this as a discontinuance and revoke the nonconforming use status. The owner of the business must intend to abandon the use. Discontinuance due to repairs, acts of war or nature, government controls, foreclosure, condemnation, or injunctions are not regarded as manifesting intent to abandon the nonconforming use status if the situation is beyond the business owner's control.

Another tool to end nonconforming use situations is amortization, where the nonconforming use of a structure must cease within a zoning district at the end of the structure's estimated useful economic life. This device often is used in connection with billboards and junkyards.

Though municipalities may seek to end nonconforming use status through these various approaches, landowners usually retain this status until it becomes economically undesirable.


Land-Use Control.

nonconforming use

n. the existing use (residential, commercial, agricultural, light industrial, etc.) of a parcel of real property which is zoned for a more limited or other use in the city or county's general plan. Usually such use is permitted only if the property was being so used before the adoption of the zoning ordinance which it violates. Example: a corner parcel has been used for a gasoline station for years, and now the city has zoned the entire area as residential (for homes only). The nonconforming use will be allowed as "grandfathered in," but if the station is torn down the only use would be residential. (See: zoning, general plan)

References in periodicals archive ?
CDA is carrying out operation not only against the illegal slums also against the nonconforming use of the houses in the city as well as the nonconforming use of the Agro Farms.
The Department of Ecology allows local jurisdictions, like Douglas County, to adopt their own Shoreline Master Plan regulations, addressing nonconforming use standards.
A nonconforming use of land generally is a use inconsistent with
By definition, a nonconforming use or structure is one in which the use or structure was legally permitted prior to a change in the law, and the change in law would no longer permit the re-establishment of such structure or use.
Regulations emerged in the zoning context that allowed a nonconforming use to continue provided there were no major alterations to the use.
12) A nonconforming use is "[a] use which lawfully existed prior to the enactment of a zoning ordinance, and which is maintained after the effective date of the ordinance, although it does not comply with the zoning restrictions applicable to the district in which it is situated.
Naeem Bukhari, argued that the CDA byelaws which prohibited nonconforming use were in contradiction to the fundamental rights provided by the Constitution of Pakistan and were liable to be struck down.
The Court of Appeals, in reversing the Appellate Division, held that "the determination of a zoning board regarding the continuation of a preexisting nonconforming use must be sustained if it is rational and supported by substantial evidence, even if the reviewing court would have reached a different result (citation omitted).
Under Arizona law, the right to continue a nonconforming use disappears once land is put to a different use.
The track first opened in the 1950s, but when Lane County adopted its zoning ordinance in the 1970s, it designated the 17-acre speedway for agriculture, grazing and timber, making it what's called a nonconforming use.
County Planning Director Kent Howe denied to the racetrack nearly a year ago a standing that would have allowed it to continue operating even though it didn't fit in with the area's zoning, called nonconforming use status.