Everything Old Is New Again: Communities Explore Nuanced Approaches to Nonconformities

Zoning Practice — August 2020

By Matthew Goebel, AICP


ZP subscriber
List price
Sign In & Download

Not a member but want to buy a copy? You'll need to create a free My APA account to purchase. Create account

Since the earliest days of zoning, local officials and planners have grappled with how to treat “nonconformities" — legally established uses, structures, lots, and site conditions that would have to look and operate differently if they came in for review under current zoning standards. Traditional approaches have allowed nonconformities to remain, subject to strict rules designed to bring about their quick removal or elimination. Increasingly, however, local officials and planners recognize that all nonconformities may not be so bad, and that a more nuanced approach is appropriate for a complex issue.

This edition of Zoning Practice surveys the creative ways that local governments are addressing nonconformities in their development codes today. After a brief introduction to different types of nonconformities and common regulatory techniques, it explores alternatives to these techniques through a series of short case examples.


Page Count
Date Published
Aug. 1, 2020
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

Matthew Goebel, AICP
Matt Goebel is a planner and attorney in the Denver office of Clarion Associates, and a Director of the firm. He has worked on numerous development code projects around the country and brings a nationwide perspective on how communities of all types have addressed the thorny issues of redevelopment and nonconformities. He is a frequent speaker at national, regional, and state local planning and historic preservation conferences.