Legal Non-Conforming Property Use

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Sometime you may come across the term, “legal nonconforming” when researching a property or trying to obtain a building permit. Some people refer to the legal non-conforming status as “grandfathered,” which can be misleading. The City Code of Colorado Springs refers to two types of legal non-conforming: (1) uses and (2) structures.

The Definition

Legal Non-Conforming refers to uses and structures which were begun or constructed when the law allowed for them but have since become noncompliant due to a change in legislation. For example, a home is constructed 5 ft. from the property line according to the legislation (rules and regulations) in effect at the time. However, the law was changed now requires the home to be 10 ft. from the property line. The home would be classified as a legal non-conforming structure because although it does not comply with the standards required today, it was legally constructed according to the standards of the time.

How does a property become legal non-conforming?

Uses and structures may become legal non-conforming when City rules and regulations change, or when the property changes jurisdiction (for example when it is annexed into the City).

How long can a legal non-conforming use continue?

A legal non-conforming use can continue in perpetuity unless the use ceases for a period of no less than 12 consecutive months. However, the use cannot be expanded, enlarged, or extended.

A legal non-conforming use may be able to be extended into another portion of the structure in which it is housed if: (1) that portion of the structure was primarily arranged or designed for the non-conforming use, and (2) if the extension of the non-conforming use does not exceed 50% of the floor area which was used by the non-conforming use when the Zoning Code became effective. For questions regarding extension of legal non-conforming uses, contact the Land Use Review Division.

Can I change a legal non-conforming use to another nonconforming use?

A legal non-conforming use may change to another nonconforming use only if the new use is of the same or lesser intensity as the old legal non-conforming use. The determination to allow the change must be made by the Land Use Review Division. Once the change occurs, the use cannot return to a more intense non-conforming use.

What if the structure housing the legal non-conforming use is damaged?

When a structure occupied by a legal non-conforming use is damaged, repairs can be made to the structure as long as the cost of the repairs does not exceed 50% of the replacement cost of the structure. If the cost of repairs exceeds 50% of the replacement value, the nonconforming use will no longer be permitted.

Addition Information:

Zoning and Subdivision information is contained within Chapter 7. Legal Non-Conforming information is specifically contained within Chapter 7, Article 5, Section 12.