Chapter 18.66


18.66.010    Purpose.

18.66.020    Permitted nonconforming uses, buildings and structures.

18.66.030    Discontinuance.

18.66.040    Change of ownership.

18.66.050    Alterations and maintenance.

18.66.060    Exemptions – Residential/group care facilities.

18.66.070    Restoration of buildings.

18.66.080    Accidental causes defined.

18.66.090    Change, expansion or intensification of nonconforming use.

18.66.100    Continuance of conditional uses.

18.66.110    Nonconforming lots.

18.66.120    Abatement.

18.66.125    Nonconforming signs.

18.66.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to provide for those circumstances, uses and lots which would not be consistent with regulations of this title but which enjoy rights of privilege based on their previous legal existence. The objective of this title and this chapter is to set the terms by which all nonconforming uses and lots will ultimately be brought into compliance with the terms of this title as it is adopted and amended. (Ord. 773 § 3, 1999)

18.66.020 Permitted nonconforming uses, buildings and structures.

All uses, buildings or lots which do not conform to the provisions of this title are considered nonconforming. Any such use, building or lot legally existing prior to the adoption of this law shall be allowed to continue as is provided by the regulations of this chapter. For purposes of this chapter, nonconforming fences, decks and similar structures shall be treated in the same manner as provided for nonconforming buildings. (Ord. 773 § 3, 1999)

18.66.030 Discontinuance.

Any nonconforming use of the land or a building which is idle, unoccupied or vacant for 180 days or more is conclusively deemed discontinued, abandoned and terminated, and shall lose its nonconforming rights. Any future uses or occupation shall be in compliance with the use regulations of the zone in which it exists. (Ord. 773 § 3, 1999)

18.66.040 Change of ownership.

Ownership, tenancy, or management of an existing nonconforming use may be changed as long as the use is not altered. Change of character is allowed when a use is changed from nonconforming to conforming. (Ord. 773 § 3, 1999)

18.66.050 Alterations and maintenance.

Nonconforming buildings may be altered, repaired, enlarged, added to or moved only as regulated by this section.

A. Alterations and repairs may be performed on a building as long as the repairs are necessary and incidental to meet requirements of law regarding unsafe buildings and is not expanded and all requirements of the zone in which it is located are met.

B. A building that is nonconforming solely by reason of substandard yard, height, area or open space regulations or similar dimensional standards and not occupied by a nonconforming use may be enlarged provided the enlargement conforms to the zoning regulations in which the building is located.

C. Nonconforming buildings which are moved to another location either within the same district or in another district must conform to all the rules and regulations of the district to which it is moved.

D. If alterations, repairs, enlargements or additions to a building over any three-year period have a value exceeding 50 percent of the fair market value of the building as determined by the building’s assessed valuation or an appraisal prior to commencement of such repairs, alterations, enlargements or additions, under the terms of this subsection, with the exception of buildings destroyed by accidental causes, then the entire building must be renovated to meet applicable building codes, including, but not by way of limitation, all applicable wiring, plumbing, parking, setbacks and construction requirements. (Ord. 773 § 3, 1999)

18.66.060 Exemptions – Residential/group care facilities.

The conversion of an existing residential structure to housing for people with functional disabilities shall not be deemed a change of use or an abandonment of discontinuity of the prior use of the structure, if such structure constituted a prior legal nonconforming use. (Ord. 773 § 3, 1999)

18.66.070 Restoration of buildings.

Any nonconforming building which is damaged or destroyed by any cause, except by destruction by accidental causes, to an extent where the value of such restoration, within any three-year period, exceeds 50 percent of the assessed or appraised value of the building, shall meet all of the regulations of the use district in which it is located and, if the structure was occupied by a nonconforming use, shall only be occupied by a permitted use after restoration. Nonconforming buildings, when destroyed by accidental causes, may be rebuilt to the original building footprint and height, and may be occupied by the same use after reconstruction only if the restoration has commenced or the appropriate complete permit application has been submitted to the city within 60 days. (Ord. 773 § 3, 1999)

18.66.080 Accidental causes defined.

For purposes of LFPMC 18.66.050 and 18.66.070, “accidental causes” means earthquakes, landslides, floods, storms, wind and other acts of nature, accidental fires, or other accidental causes, such as explosion or acts of war, beyond the control of the owner. (Ord. 773 § 3, 1999)

18.66.090 Change, expansion or intensification of nonconforming use.

Change of an existing nonconforming use to another nonconforming use, expansion of an existing nonconforming use, or intensification of an existing nonconforming use within the confines of an existing structure or lot may only occur subject to the following conditions:

A. No nonconforming use shall be enlarged, increased or extended to occupy a greater area of building or land than was occupied at the effective date of adoption or a conditional use permit is approved by the city.

B. No nonconforming use shall be changed to another nonconforming use, or be intensified, unless a conditional use permit is approved by the hearing examiner. (Ord. 924 § 11, 2005; Ord. 773 § 3, 1999)

18.66.100 Continuance of conditional uses.

A use (including the building and land it occupies) which existed prior to the adoption of the ordinance codified in this title which would be permitted under the terms of this law as a conditional use is considered a conforming permitted conditional use and requires no further action. If such a conditional use is expanded or altered such that potential impacts need to be examined, a new conditional use must be approved prior to such alteration or enlargement. (Ord. 773 § 3, 1999)

18.66.110 Nonconforming lots.

Legally established lots in existence prior to the effective date of this title which do not meet the requirements set forth in this title are considered nonconforming lots of record and are legally buildable subject to the following conditions:

A. That all lots to be legally buildable must be in compliance with the rules and regulations of the county health district. Where there is a conflict between the provisions or this section and those rules of the county health district, the more restrictive rules shall apply.

B. That structures on any lot must meet all setback, height and other construction requirements for the zone in which the property is located.

C. That a lot line adjustment shall be required when a nonconforming and conforming lot are adjacent, owned by the same person and will result in legal lots and building setbacks.

D. Legal nonconforming lots may be altered or changed, provided such change does not increase the degree of nonconformity. (Ord. 773 § 3, 1999)

18.66.120 Abatement.

Whenever the owner of a nonconforming use, building or lot fails to discontinue or remove a nonconforming use consistent with the provisions of this title, the city shall take such action as may be necessary to abate the use. (Ord. 773 § 3, 1999)

18.66.125 Nonconforming signs.*

A. Definitions.

1. “Illegal sign” means a sign which is not authorized by Chapter 18.52 LFPMC; or a sign which either was not authorized by city ordinance or which was not a nonconforming sign as of the date LFPMC Title 18 was adopted, or a sign which loses its nonconforming permit as provided in this section.

2. A “legal nonconforming sign” is a sign that on the date of its installation complied with all requirements of applicable laws and regulations, but that is not a legal sign under LFPMC Title 18.

3. “Sign owner” means the licensee of the business associated with the sign, or the owner of the sign, or the owner of the property on which the sign is located.

B. Notification of Nonconformity or Illegality.

1. The code administrator shall, as soon as practical, survey the city for signs which do not conform to the requirements of this code. Upon determination that a sign is nonconforming or illegal, the administrator shall use reasonable efforts to notify the sign owner, either personally or in writing, that:

a. The sign is nonconforming and that it is or is not eligible for a nonconforming sign permit; or

b. The sign is illegal.

2. If, after reasonable inquiry, the identity of the sign owner cannot be determined, the notice shall be affixed conspicuously on the sign or on the premises with which the sign is associated. A file shall be established in the department, and a copy of the notice and certification of posting shall be maintained for records.

C. Nonconforming Sign Permit. Any sign which, on the effective date of the ordinance codified in this code, does not conform with the provisions of this code, but which, on the day before the effective date of this code was a legal or nonconforming sign, may be granted a nonconforming sign permit upon proper application; provided, that temporary or special event signs shall not be permitted as nonconforming signs.

D. Permit for Nonconforming Signs.

1. A nonconforming sign permit is required for each nonconforming sign allowed. The permit shall be obtained by the sign owner within 60 days of notification by the city. Unless it terminates earlier as provided in this section, a permit shall expire at the end of the applicable amortization period prescribed herein.

2. Applications for a nonconforming sign permit shall contain the name and address of the sign owner, identification of the sign(s) to be permitted as nonconforming, the date of installation of the sign(s), and such other pertinent information as the administrator may require to ensure compliance with this code. The application shall be accompanied by a fee as established by the city council from time to time.

3. Any sign owner who fails to apply for a nonconforming sign permit within the 60-day period of notification by the city shall within six months bring the sign into compliance with this code or have it removed.

E. Illegal Signs – Abatement. An illegal sign is declared to be a public nuisance and may be removed as provided in RCW 47.42.080 as follows:

1. Any sign erected or maintained contrary to the provisions of Chapter 18.52 LFPMC is a public nuisance, and the chief of police shall notify the owner of the property on which the sign is located, by certified mail at his or her last known address, that it constitutes a public nuisance and must comply with the chapter or be removed.

2. An owner who fails to comply with the chapter or remove any such sign within 15 days after being notified to remove the sign is guilty of a misdemeanor. In addition to the penalties imposed by law upon conviction, an order may be entered compelling removal of the sign. Each day the sign is maintained constitutes a separate offense.

3. If the owner of the property upon which it is located is not found or refuses receipt of the notice, the chief of police shall post the sign and property upon which it is located with a notice that the sign constitutes a public nuisance and must be removed. If the sign is not removed within 15 days after such posting, the chief of police shall abate the nuisance and destroy the sign, and for that purpose may enter upon private property without incurring liability for doing so.

4. Any sign erected or maintained on city property or public rights-of-way contrary to city ordinance is a public nuisance, and the chief of police is authorized to remove any such sign without notice.

F. Loss of Nonconforming Status.

1. A nonconforming sign may remain and be used; provided, that the sign must be removed or brought into compliance with all requirements of this code if any of the following occur:

a. There is any change in land use, or in occupancy, or a change in business name, with respect to the business or premises for which the sign was installed;

b. The sign is replaced or it is altered in any manner that is not in compliance with the standards of Chapter 18.52 LFPMC; provided, that a change in copy, panel, or lettering, unrelated to a change regulated in subsection (F)(1)(a) of this section shall not be considered an alteration or replacement;

c. The sign is relocated in a manner that is not in compliance with the standards of Chapter 18.52 LFPMC;

d. A new sign, in addition to the nonconforming sign, is installed on the premises on which the nonconforming sign is located; or

e. The owner of the sign refuses to obtain a permit for the nonconforming sign in accordance with procedures established herein.

2. Upon the occurrence of any of the foregoing, a nonconforming sign permit shall terminate immediately and the sign shall be an illegal sign. The administrator shall notify the sign owner that the sign either must be removed or brought into compliance with this code immediately and a new permit secured.

G. Amortization Period for Nonconforming Signs.

1. Any nonconforming sign permitted under this section may remain permitted and in place for the amortization period authorized by subsection (G)(2) of this section; provided, that such sign does not otherwise lose its nonconforming sign permit. At the expiration of the amortization period, a sign shall be removed or brought into compliance with this code.

2. A nonconforming sign permitted under this section shall be brought into compliance with this code or removed within three years of the date the sign became nonconforming; provided, that the city administrator may upon application extend the compliance period no more than an additional six years upon finding that:

a. The intent and purpose of this section and Chapter 18.52 LFPMC will not be detrimentally affected; and

b. The sign owner has a substantial unamortized investment (excluding cost of maintenance and repair) in the sign.

3. An application for an extension of the amortization period shall be submitted to the city administrator and shall contain the date the sign was installed, records substantiating capital investment in the sign, records establishing amortization of such investment, and such other information as the city administrator may require. Absent records concerning amortization, the city administrator may establish a schedule for unamortized investment, if any, in any commercially reasonable manner. The application shall be accompanied by a fee as established by the city council from time to time.

H. Appeals.

1. A decision with regard to an application for a permit for a nonconforming sign, an application for an extended amortization period, or loss of nonconforming status may be appealed to the city council.

2. The notice of appeal must be filed with the city clerk within 15 days of the effective date of the decision, and it must state with specificity the error or errors claimed. Upon receipt of a complete and timely notice of appeal, the city clerk shall schedule a hearing before the city council no later than 30 days from the date the notice of appeal is received.

3. The appellant shall have the burden of proof and the council shall affirm the city’s decision unless it finds that the decision is based upon a clear error of law or that it is not supported by substantial evidence. The city council’s decision is the final decision of the city, which may be appealed as provided in Chapter 36.70C RCW.

4. Enforcement action shall be stayed during the appeal period and pending final decision on an appeal.

I. Nonconforming Sign Maintenance and Re-pair. Nothing in this section shall relieve the sign owner from the obligation to maintain any sign in a safe, presentable condition or to make any repairs necessary to achieve such conditions; provided, that such maintenance and repair shall not modify the sign or structure in any way which is not in compliance with the requirements of this code. (Ord. 906 § 1, 2005; Ord. 850 § 1, 2001; Ord. 788 § 1, 2000)

*Code reviser’s note: Ordinance No. 788 adds these provisions as Section 18.66.120. The section has been editorially renumbered to prevent duplication of numbering.