Click Your Work Boots Three Times And Say, "There's No Place Like Home"

I have a guy who contacted CNHT about his problems in the town in which he owns a small house he is remodeling. He is putting a new septic system in the property as well.

Last week, the local code enforcement officer signed off on the septic permit the day before he - issued a ‘Cease and Desist’ order on all work at the residence. The C&D sites Section 3.4.2., the Pre-existing Non-conforming Use section.

Now if you think Zoning protects property from other lesser beings who would infringe on your right to enjoy your own property, you may be right. I simply fail to see that zoning helps more than it hurts.

In this case we have a pre-existing home on a small, nonconforming LOT in a residential section of this town. So any reasonable reading of the Town ordinance would preclude this residential home from being a ‘non-conforming’ USE.

Read the relevant section of the zoning ordinance for yourself. Maybe I missed something.



This zoning ordinance shall not apply to any existing structures or to any existing use of any building , in existence on the date of the adoption of this ordinance . This zoning ordinance shall apply to any alternation of a building for use for a purpose or in a manner which is substantially different from the use to which it was put before alteration.


When any existing nonconforming use of land or buildings has been destroyed or discontinued for two (2) years, the land, structures, and buildings shall thereafter be used only in conformity to this ordinance , except that the Zoning Board of Adjustment, after a public hearing, may permit the resumption of said nonconforming use...

A review of the facts show that the home in question was:

(a) Existing before Zoning was adopted in this town.

(b) The home is a conforming use in the zone it is in.

© The remodeling is not altering the use and has all the required permits.

(d) Shall not apply - in English - means the opposite of shall apply.

This brings up the question, why would the code enforcement officer drop a cease and desist on this homeowner if it is grandfathered property and use is not ‘non-conforming’?


#1. The neighbor is trying to persuade the code enforcement officer that since no one is living in the house during its remodeling it is a discontinued non-conforming use.

#2. The neighbor is a town employee.

Interesting Fact*

This is the second time this has happened in three years.

Point to Remember*

This how Zoning REALLY works.

ADMINISTRATION AND ENFORCEMENT: It shall be the duty of the Board of Selectmen, or the Building Inspector as its designee, to initiate immediate steps, to enforce this Article upon well-founded information of any violation thereof, by issuing due notice to cease and desist such violation and taking such necessary action as may be permitted by statute for both criminal and civil enforcement of the same including, but not limited to, seeking a civil fine of $100.00 per day for each day the violation continues after the owner has been notified of that violation; provided, however, that the failure by the Board to initiate enforcement under this Article will not constitute a waiver of the Town ’s right to take such action.

CNHT will help this home owner again. And when we are done I will tell you what Town this is in and it will be an even more interesting story.

You know, it may be time to have penaties for people, including Code Enforcement Officers, who abuse zoning ordinances.