How long is too long for non conforming uses?

Losing the ability to operate a business because the operation of that business does not conform to the long-range goals within a General Plan can be a shock. Commercial Real Estate agents understand the importance of finding a tenant quickly for a property owner when the property does not conform with a General Plan. However, not all property owners are aware of the consequences of an updated General Plan.

The Santa Rosa Community Development Department has stated that the current non-conforming policy within the Zoning Code allows existing non-conforming uses to remain in perpetuity, so long as the use was legally established and remains active. However, it requires non-conforming uses to convert to a conforming use if the non-conforming use has been discontinued for a continuous period of six months or more.

Some property owners don’t know or understand the consequences when General Plans are updated. The language within Santa Rosa planning documents may be modified to allow longer lapses to occur between non-conforming uses that do not conform with the General Plan. During tough economic times finding a new tenant can be a struggle but having to change the use of your property could be overwhelming.

Understanding the requirements of your local planning department is not something most business owners concern them selves with. Trying to undue the past is always more difficult and expensive. Property owners that have a clear understanding of their property’s zoning will have a chance of addressing future issues.

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