Non-conforming use Zoning Question

Asked May 26, 2016, 12:41 PM EDT

We are in a General Commercial district in non-conforming use as a resident. Permitted uses include auto sales and repair, open air sales, as well as similar and customarily incidental uses to those permitted. We were a licensed auto dealer for 22 years at this location until our local officials refused to authorize our license renewals from the state at the end of 2005. They just informed us that any nonconforming use eliminates permitted uses of a property, and it's on this that they based their denials of our license renewals, and have denied any attempt we have made to go back into business. They are basing this policy on the following statement from the zoning book concerning non-conforming use. "It is the intent of this Ordinance that nonconformities shall not be enlarged upon...nor be used as grounds for adding other structures or uses prohibited elsewhere in the same district." As it is, they are telling us that we are classified as "Residential Use" in the General Commercial District, and cannot use our property for uses permitted in the GC District unless we relinquish using it as a residence. In essence, they are treating all residential use in the GC District as Residential Districts by not allowing commercial use, or open air sales permitted in the GC District. This is the same as spot zoning. We believe they have misinterpreted their zoning ordinance, and that it says just the opposite of how they are applying it. Are they incorrect in their interpretation, and have they developed a policy that is in conflict with what their zoning ordinance actually states? We plan to appeal this policy to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and would appreciate any input you can give us. Thank you.

Genesee County Michigan

1 Response

It appears the issue at hand is trying to have two uses on this parcel that is zoned general commercial. The community seems to have classified you as a non conforming residential use in this commercial district.

In most zoning ordinances in Michigan if you have a commercial district that prohibits residential uses any pre existing residential uses are considered non conformities. Typically trying to have two distinct and separate uses on one parcel is prohibited in most zoning districts.

From what information you have provided, the community decided in 2005 that having two uses on that parcel was a violation of the zoning ordinance and they classified you as a residential use. The issue at hand is according to most commercial district zoning ordinances you can be either a non conforming residential use or a conforming commercial use but not both. This is not “spot zoning” , it is use based zoning. Because the GC district does not allow for residential uses it becomes an either or decision.