Grandfathered Property Rights

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Nonconformance and noncompliance doesn’t always mean you’re breaking the rules, kids!

Say What?

These days, a quick google search never disappoints, as illustrated by the leading photo pictured above.  What’s more interesting than that are specific instances of grandfathered uses or structures.  

For example, did you know that a popular taco cart on State Street in Salt Lake City near the former Sears building is a “grandfathered” use?  We didn’t either – but according to an article published in the fall of 2022, KSL noted the widely popular Tacos Don Rafa taco cart has been operating on the sidewalk in that location for the past twenty-five (25) years.   

Why You Should Know About Grandfathering…

Everything changes, time, people, policies, procedures.  Nothing is static, or if it is static, it doesn’t stay static for long.  

When it comes to land use, most of the time policy changes are based on health, safety, and welfare concerns, or are politically motivated (i.e, what elected officials, their constituents, or residents desire for the community as a whole or within a particular area).  

Because of this, grandfathering clauses and provisions are needed.  Can you imagine if all residents within your community had to bring everything (all land uses, structures, etc.) into full compliance every time a land use law or ordinance changed?     

If Grandfathering Is Not A Politically Correct Term, What Is?

Grandfathering is more appropriately known as and referred to in Utah as “nonconforming uses” and “noncomplying structures”:

  • Nonconforming uses are referred to in State Code as “a use of land that legally existed before its current land use designation, has been maintained continuously since the time the land use ordinance governing the land changes, and because of one (1) or more subsequent land use ordinance changes, does not conform to the regulations that now govern the use of land”. 
  • Noncomplying structures are similar, defined as “a structure that legally existed before the structure’s current land use designation, and because of one (1) or more subsequent land use ordinance changes, does not conform to the setback, height restrictions, or other regulations excluding those regulations which govern the use of land”.

In addition to the definitions listed above Utah State Code also has specific requirements for which nonconforming uses and noncomplying structures must abide by.

Need Help To Update Your Nonconforming Process?

If your municipality or county hasn’t updated its policies to reflect the current processes it uses when it comes to nonconforming uses and noncomplying structures, it might be time to do so.  We can help you revitalize your process!

Call Rural Community Consultants today to get expert planning, economic, and ordinance advice to make your community the best it can be.

Want To Learn More?

Check out our online training modules! Note: Rural Community Consultants is able to provide access to specific training modules free of charge, courtesy of the Utah Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman.

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