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Nonconformities

The zoning ordinance primarily regulates new development, expansions of uses and changes in uses.  Under State law, an existing use that was legal when it was first established can continue to operate, regardless of zoning regulations that are later enacted.  An existing legal use that would not be permitted to be newly established under current zoning regulations is known as a “nonconforming use.”  Generally, nonconforming uses can: a) be sold to a new operator, b) be expanded within certain limits, and c) be changed to a different nonconforming use, as long as the new use is not more intense than the old use.

For example, an auto repair garage may have existed before the Borough adopted zoning. It is located in a residential district. It may be changed to a store, which would be less intense. However, it could not be changed to an asphalt plant, which would be more intense.

Likewise, in most cases, existing vacant lots that were legally established may be built upon – even if they do not meet the minimum size requirements of a zoning ordinance. However, any building would still need to meet setback, wetland and floodplain regulations.

However, if a use was not legal when it first started, it has no right to continue.  For example, if a house was illegally converted into apartments twenty years ago, it is still illegal, and can be required to be deconverted.