Grandfathered usage concern

6 Replies

I have a property under contract in Idaho that is zoned ag and grandfathered in as a commercial use. The current owners had been using as mixed use residential/ commercial.

Does anyone have experience good or bad with grandfathered usage. Reasons to stay away or things to watch out for. I am meeting with zoning to discuss tomorrow just looking for any advice.

We also plan to use the property in a similar fashion as previous owner.


I echo @Jonna Weber 's point.  "Non-conforming use" might be some other language you might look into.  Especially if there's documentation of that commercial use through the county.  Might want to visit them while you're at it too. 

Thanks so much for your replies.

Just as an update we ran through our due diligence with the county and city. 

We ended up having to cancel this deal for the time being due to discrepancy between what the county would allow vs what the listing agent had supposedly confirmed they would allow.

I certainly learned a bit in the process though, so I guess it wasn't for nothing.

@John Hogg , can you elaborate more about what you learned?

My understanding is that if for example a property had been used as a restaurant before zoning laws came into existence or before they changed that the use would continue to be permitted. However, I don't think you could assume that since that is a "commercial" use that any commercial use would be permitted. So, you couldn't change it into a gas station.

If you had another use intended though you could ask for a variance for that use and make the sale contingent upon getting that approval.

@Kevin Sobilo , This property was originally a upholstery business that was, as you were mentioning, put into use before the zoning rules were established. It was built in the 30's and owned by the same family this whole time. The property is now surrounded by city property on all sides and is one of the last few holdouts of county zoned land in that area. Most change of uses started to look like they were going to require the property to be annexed into the city to be approved. 

It seemed that the property required owner occupancy to use property for business use and residential. We were not looking to occupy the residence on the property so this didn't work for our plan. 

The property had a large commercial shop warehouse, a 3 bed 1 bath house, and a former manufactured home site that had seperate well and septic hookups from the main house. My plan was to rent the house and shop seperately and build a small home in the former manufactured home's location.

The city and county both were not very certain on giving exact answers or putting anything in writing in the time frame that we had for our due diligence and the sellers were unwilling to extend our contract until firm answers on allowed uses came in. 

@John Hogg , thank you that gives a lot more context. 

The use issue isn't going to go away for the seller. So, perhaps eventually they will be more open to giving time to work through the issue.