Charles County, MD
 
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
If there existed, prior to the adoption of this chapter or subsequent amendments of this chapter, lawful lots, buildings, structures or uses which now, by virtue of the adoption of this chapter, do not conform to the regulations or requirements of this chapter, such nonconforming situations may continue to exist, subject to the regulations contained in this article.
A. 
The Zoning Officer shall have the authority to determine and confirm the existence of a nonconforming situation and the date of the creation of the nonconforming situation upon a review of an application filed by the property owner along with payment of the filing fee, which must contain the following information:
(1) 
A full description of the specific nonconforming situation that exists on the subject property and its magnitude and extent.
(2) 
The date the situation came into existence, as a legal situation, or a date prior to the adoption of this chapter or its amendments when the situation first existed.
(3) 
The specific zoning regulation which caused the prior legal situation to become nonconforming.
(4) 
A statement, supported by appropriate documentation, that clearly demonstrates that the nonconforming situation has continuously existed without interruption from the date when it became a nonconforming situation until the date when the application for determination was filed with the Zoning Officer.
(5) 
Documentation from any County or state government agency of certified records or permits substantiating the date when the situation came into existence or of its continued, uninterrupted existence since its origination.
B. 
The casual, temporary or illegal use of land is not a basis to support the existence of a nonconforming situation.
C. 
The burden of proof necessary to support an application for the determination of a nonconforming situation is on the applicant.
D. 
The Zoning Officer shall issue the determination within 60 days after the application is found to be complete.
E. 
If the Zoning Officer does not issue the determination within 60 days, the applicant has the ability to appeal the matter to the Board of Appeals.
F. 
After the receipt of notice that the Zoning Officer has not made a determination, the applicant will have 30 days to file an appeal with the Board.
G. 
Thereafter, all of the general provisions and the specific requirements and procedures related to appeals contained in Article XXV will be applied by the Board in its determination of whether a nonconforming situation does or does not exist.
Any developed lot reduced in area or setback to a nonconforming lot by reason of a realignment or dedication of any existing federal, state or County road or by reason of a condemnation proceeding is a nonconforming lot of record. Any lawful structure on such lot before reduction in lot size is a nonconforming structure and may continue. A change in use of a developed nonconforming lot may be accomplished in accordance with § 297-467.
A. 
A lot is undeveloped if it has no principal building on it or if there is a principal building on it which is structurally unsound, unsafe or unlawful due to lack of repairs and maintenance and is declared to be unsound, unsafe or unlawful by reason of physical condition.
B. 
When a nonconforming lot can be used in conformity with all of the regulations applicable to the intended use, except that the lot is smaller than the required minimums contained in Article VI, then the lot may be used as proposed just as if it were conforming.
C. 
When the use proposed for a nonconforming lot is one that is conforming in all other respects, but the applicable setback requirements contained in Article VI cannot reasonably be complied with, then a variance approved by the Board of Appeals is required.
D. 
If, on the date this chapter becomes effective, an undeveloped nonconforming lot adjoins and is contiguous with one or more other undeveloped lots under the same ownership, then neither the owner of the nonconforming lot nor his successors-in-interest may take advantage of the provisions of this section. This subsection shall not apply to a nonconforming lot if a majority of the developed lots located on either side of the street where such lot is located and within 500 feet of such lot are also nonconforming. The intent of this subsection is to require nonconforming lots to be combined with other undeveloped lots to create conforming lots, but not to require such combination when that would be inconsistent with the way the neighborhood has previously been developed.
E. 
A single lot or parcel of land rendered nonconforming by the provisions of the Critical Area Zone shall conform to all applicable requirements of Article IX.
F. 
If a lot lacks street frontage, it must have an unrestricted right of access.
A. 
Except as specifically approved by the Board of Appeals as provided in Subsection G, no person may engage in any activity that causes an increase in the extent of nonconformity of a nonconforming situation. In particular, physical alteration of structures or the placement of new structures on open land is unlawful, unless approved by the Board, if such activity results in:
(1) 
An increase in the total amount of space devoted to a nonconforming use; or
(2) 
Greater nonconformity with respect to dimensional restrictions, such as setback requirements, height limitations or density requirements, or other requirements such as parking.
B. 
Subject to Subsection D, a nonconforming use may be extended throughout any portion of a completed building that, when the use was made nonconforming, was manifestly designed or arranged to accommodate such use. However, a nonconforming use may not be extended to additional buildings or to land outside the original building unless approved by the Board under the provisions of Subsection G.
C. 
A nonconforming use of open land may not be extended to cover more land than was occupied by that use when it became nonconforming, except as approved by the Board under the provisions of Subsection G.
D. 
The volume, intensity or frequency of use of property where a nonconforming situation exists may be increased and the equipment or processes used at a location where a nonconforming situation exists may be changed if these or similar changes amount only to changes in the degree of activity, rather than changes in kind, and no violations of other provisions of this section occur.
E. 
Notwithstanding Subsection A, any structure used for single-family residential purposes and maintained as a nonconforming use may be enlarged or replaced with a similar structure of a larger size, so long as the enlargement or replacement does not create new nonconformities or increase the extent of existing nonconformities with respect to such matters as setback and parking requirements. This subsection is subject to the limitations stated in § 297-468, Abandonment and discontinuance of nonconforming situations.
F. 
A nonconforming structure may be altered to decrease its nonconformity.
G. 
The Board of Appeals shall consider and may grant approval, with or without conditions, for the expansion or extension of existing nonconforming situations based on the following standards:
(1) 
Such an application shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter applicable to special exception uses.
(2) 
No approval shall be granted for an extension or expansion which exceeds 50% of the land area or gross floor area in use at the time of the creation of the nonconforming situation.
(3) 
The extension or expansion shall not occur on any adjoining property under the same ownership at the time of the creation of the nonconforming situation.
(4) 
The extension or expansion shall involve continuance of the activities which were permitted and being conducted on the site at the time of the creation of the nonconforming situation.
A. 
Minor repairs to and routine maintenance of property where nonconforming situations exist are permitted and encouraged. Major renovation, i.e., work estimated to cost more than 25% of the appraised valuation of the structure to be renovated, may be done only in accordance with the provisions of this section.
B. 
If a structure located on a lot where a nonconforming situation exists is damaged to an extent that the costs of repair or replacement would exceed 25% of the appraised valuation of the damaged structure, then the damaged structure may be repaired or replaced only in accordance with the provisions of this section. This subsection does not apply to structures used for single-family residential purposes, which structures may be reconstructed just as they may be enlarged or replaced as provided in § 297-465E.
C. 
For purposes of Subsections A and B:
(1) 
The "cost" of renovation or repair or replacement shall mean the fair market value of the materials and services necessary to accomplish such renovation, repair or replacement.
(2) 
The "cost" of renovation or repair or replacement shall include the total value of all such intended or necessary work, and no person may seek to avoid the intent of Subsections A or B by doing such work incrementally.
(3) 
The "appraised valuation" shall mean either the appraised valuation for property tax purposes or the valuation determined by a professionally recognized property appraiser, whichever is higher.
D. 
The Zoning Officer shall issue a permit for work authorized by this section upon finding that, in completing the renovation, repair or replacement work:
(1) 
No violation of § 297-465 will occur; and
(2) 
The permittee will comply to the extent reasonably possible with all provisions and requirements applicable to the existing use, except that the permittee shall not lose his right to continue a nonconforming use.
E. 
Compliance with a requirement of this chapter is not reasonably possible if compliance cannot be achieved without adding additional land to the lot where the nonconforming situation exists or moving a substantial structure that is on a permanent foundation. Mere financial hardship caused by the cost of meeting requirements such as paved parking does not constitute grounds for finding that compliance is not reasonably possible.
A. 
A change in use of property where a nonconforming situation exists may not be made except in accordance with this section. These requirements shall not apply if only a sign permit is needed.
B. 
If the intended change in use is to a principal use that is permitted by right in the zone where the property is located and all of the other requirements of this chapter applicable to that use can be complied with, permission to make the change must be obtained in the same manner as permission to make the initial use of a vacant lot. Once conformity with this chapter is achieved, the property may not revert to its nonconforming status.
C. 
If the intended change in use is to a principal use that is permitted by right in the zone where the property is located, but all of the requirements of this chapter applicable to that use cannot reasonably be complied with, then the change is permissible if the Zoning Officer finds that, in addition to any other findings that may be required by this chapter, the intended change will not result in a violation of § 297-465.
D. 
If the intended change in use is to another principal use that is also nonconforming, then the Board of Appeals may authorize the change in use if, in addition to the other required findings, it is found that:
(1) 
The use requested is one that is permitted by right in some zone;
(2) 
All of the conditions applicable to the permit authorized in Subsection C above are satisfied; and
(3) 
The proposed development will be more compatible with the surrounding neighborhood than the existing use in operation.
A. 
In the event that a nonconforming use ceases for a period of one year or more, then the nonconforming use shall be deemed abandoned, and compliance with this chapter shall be required.
B. 
When an existing lawful structure or operation made nonconforming by the adoption or amendment of this chapter is vacant or discontinued at the effective date of this chapter or the amendment that created the nonconforming situation, the one-year period, for purposes of this section, begins to run on the effective date of this chapter or amendment, whichever is applicable.