Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 14 October 2011 00:00
The Village of Roslyn Harbor is home to numerous older homes, many of which are determined to be pre-existing nonconforming structures. That is, they exceed, for instance, height requirements needed for the more recent residential units in the village.
In order to clarify the usages of such units, including interior and exterior renovations, the board of trustees recently approved Local Law 1-2011.
A purpose of the new law is cost-saving measures. Local Law 1-2011 also declares its goal is to “minimize the cost, expense and administrative processing for Village residents” who are “seeking to maintain, rebuild and improve” a lawfully nonconforming structure or lot. As a village official explained, the law seeks to grandfather pre-existing lots into current zoning requirements.
Nonconforming structures may be both on the exterior and interior of a unit. And so, one of the stipulations placed on nonconforming properties is that they cannot expand their land space unless they receive Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) approval.
A nonconforming structure, in addition, can alter itself to a conforming use. It may also make alterations “determined necessary by the Building Department to either correct an unsafe condition, or to conform to the requirements of other applicable laws or ordinances.” Interior renovation to nonconforming units would not need ZBA approval.
In addition, if a nonconforming structure suffers damages of greater than 50 percent of the replacement cost of the entire building, then any reconstruction can conform to the new provisions. For instance, if worse comes to worse and a nonconforming unit is burned down, it can be rebuilt according to its original height.
Damages of less than 50 percent of the replacement cost would be reconstructed with ZBA approval. Further, damages to a dwelling or an accessory building which is conforming, but dimensionally nonconforming, can be reconstructed within two years without ZBA approval.
Another purpose of the ordinance is to determine how a nonconforming structure may “continue” in a district where such structures, as the name suggests, are not in sync with the zoning requirements. To this end, an exception to the new law would include a nonconforming structure that is deemed appropriate to the district in which it is located, while at the same time allowing the ZBA to impose conditions and safeguards on such a structure.
Many nonconforming units, as noted, are older structures. And so if a nonconforming use of a building ceases operations for one year, its future use must conform to Local Law 1-2011. The ZBA may extend the nonconforming use by taking into consideration “the characteristics of the use, the investment which has been made in it, the circumstances of the discontinuance and the suitability of the structure for a permitted use in the district in which it is located.”
The provisions of Local Law 1-2011 do not apply to all structures, namely telecommunications and microwave usages. But it does apply to structures that are conforming in use, but are nonconforming in such areas as lot dimension, yard dimension, height, building coverage, floor area ratio, and off-street parking, among other similar usages.