Riding on our success with an insurance discussion last week about the meaning and implications of having someone’s insurance coverage be “primary and noncontributory,” we thought we’d risk a similar topic this week. [To see what Ruminations said about “primary and noncontributory,” click: HERE.]
There are two pretty common land use and construction approval concepts across the country. If a building is destroyed beyond a certain degree (by fire or otherwise), its reconstruction has to comply with current law. “Grandparenting” (f/k/a “grandfathering”) doesn’t allow you to put it back the way it was. Generally, when it comes to construction codes, new buildings and major reconstructions need to meet most new code requirements. For example, if the “old” building had 1/2 inch wallboard (which was lawful when built) and the current code requires 3/4 inch wallboard, 3/4 inch is the answer to your question.
As to compliance with land use requirements, the most common “threshold” is 50% destruction. In some jurisdictions, that is 50% of value; in some that’s 50% of floor area; in some it might be 50% of bulk volume. The “threshold” is jurisdiction specific. Look it up. Regardless of the threshold, if the damage exceeds that level, you don’t have the right to put the building as it was, if it didn’t conform to the land use requirements on the day the damage took place. So, if the building was a prior nonconforming use because it was a three-story building now in a two-story zone, you don’t have the right to rebuild three stories. You need to get a variance. The same goes for setback violations, and so forth. And, yes, sometimes you can’t get the variance and the building can’t be reconstructed. [Read more…]