We have spent quite a bit of time in the past sharing how nonconforming provisions have been made for numerous properties in the state of New Hampshire. Those provisions basically allow certain properties to function as they always have. This is despite the fact that those properties do not meet all of the current local code requirements.
While expanding nonconforming uses might seem to be an excellent idea, it can become problematic over time. There are numerous types of problems that can be caused by expansions. However, the main one that always comes to mind is when an owner of a nonconforming building wants to expand. If the building is in a residential area, there is always negative feedback from the neighbors and even local code enforcement.
Thankfully, there is a law in place in New Hampshire that requires each potential nonconforming use expansion to be reviewed prior to approval.
The Standards of Nonconforming Uses Expansions
Most local governments in this state will almost always allow the expansion of nonconforming uses if there won’t be a substantial change for the neighborhood. Therefore, if a landowner wants to increase the size of their building, or something similar, they will be allowed to do so if there is no major negative impact.
Since there are many different technological and demographic advances over time, all expanding nonconforming uses must be considered carefully. All of those advances may make it necessary to deny the nonconforming use expansion and require the building to now be up to the local codes.
How to Determine Whether an Expansion is Considered a Substantial Change
It can be slightly difficult to determine whether an expansion is considered a substantial change. Therefore, the courts have determined the degree to which all nonconforming uses may be expanded.
All courts in New Hampshire consider the following:
- The extent of how the new use reflects the nature and purpose of the current nonconforming use
- Whether the new use is actually the same as the original nonconforming use or if it is actually a different use
- Whether the new use will substantially impact the neighborhood
When an expansion of nonconforming uses is brought to the courts, it is up to the landowner to convince the court that the expanding use is the same as the old nonconforming use.
All of the Practical Considerations
It is important to note that all nonconforming use expansions will impact a neighborhood. However, as long as those impacts are not substantial, the nonconforming usage can continue in most scenarios. There are quite a few practical considerations everyone must keep in mind when they are filing for a nonconforming use expansion.
A few of the common considerations include:
- The number of employees
- New noises, lights, smells, or vibrations
- Changes in access via driveways to parking areas
- The degree of the changes of the property’s footprint
- The degree of how the building or property is altered or moved
- The change in the volume of traffic to the property
- Whether accessory uses have turned into principal uses
- Types of new equipment and accessory structures on the property
There is quite a bit you must know about nonconforming uses expansions. This covers most of it, but then there are loopholes that include making slight changes that will bring the building closer to the current code requirements.
If you are considering a nonconforming uses expansion, it is best to contact our office today to schedule a consultation. This is one of those issues you do not want to tackle on your own.