PPNA Happenings

Happenings, history and news of the Prospect Park Neighborhood and Ypsilanti

Planning Commission non-conforming use – potential zoning change

Posted by ppna on January 17, 2009

Dear COPAC members,

The Planning Commission meeting on January 21 will include a public hearing on an application to enable restoration of existing non-conforming multiple-unit residential properties. This will probably be of the most interest to the residents of Midtown, Riverside, and HESNA, as those neighborhoods have the largest concentrations of these properties.

In summary, an “existing non-conforming” multiple unit residential property is one that has too many dwelling units for the zoning district it is located in, or has too many dwelling units relative to the size of the lot. An existing non-conforming use may continue to be used (it is “grandfathered in”) until it is removed, destroyed, or discontinued. At that point, the “existing” status is lost, and the property must comply with the zoning. In this way, properties gradually come into compliance with the zoning over time.

In 2006, when a large portion of Midtown and Riverside were downzoned, a process was created for restoring existing non-conforming multi-unit residential properties that were removed, destroyed, or severely damaged, such as by a fire or similar disaster. The owner of such a property may apply to the Planning Commission for permission to build back the property and maintain more units than the zoning would allow, but must make some improvements to the property: roominghouses must be turned into apartments, parking spaces per unit must be approved, and the property must, generally, move closer to compliance.

As a result of the recent wave of foreclosures, the City has found that a number of these non-conforming properties are becoming “discontinued” – they are sitting vacant and effectively abandoned during the foreclosure process for long enough that they lose their existing non-conforming status. These properties have had a hard time finding buyers and are sitting vacant for long periods of time. We have heard from a number of people who have considered these houses, but were unwilling to buy a four- or five-unit house that they would be required to convert to a single-unit before using. While reducing the number of units in these properties to the zoning limits is the long-term goal, current market conditions have accelerated the process, and the market does not seem able to absorb the affected properties.

The Planning Commission will therefore be considering a zoning text amendment that would make “discontinued” properties eligible for restoration through the same process as destroyed properties: the properties could request Planning Commission approval to keep some of the extra units, but would have to make improvements to the property to reduce the impact of the properties on the surrounding area. No properties would be automatically made eligible to have or keep extra units by this change – the Planning Commission would have to examine properties on a case-by-case basis.

For more information, I’ve posted the Planning Commission’s meeting packet to the City website. The staff report on this item begins on page 24 of that packet, and includes a map showing existing non-conforming residential properties in the city for reference.


Please let me know if you have any questions or comments, or attend the public hearing on Wednesday.

Thank you,

Richard Murphy

Planner II

City of Ypsilanti

1 S. Huron St.

Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197

Phone: 734-483-9646

Fax: 734-483-7260




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