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Non-Conforming Use-Expansion versus intensification

Maryland's Court of Appeals clarifies the difference between expansion and intensification of non-conforming use of real property 


On May 9, 2006, Maryland's Court Appeals in Trip Assoc. Inc. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore issued an opinion clarifying the rights of real property owners with valid non-conforming uses.  For the first time, the Court addressed whether using a valid nonconforming use more frequently than it had been used at the time it became nonconforming (passage of zoning law) was prohibited expansion or intensification. 

The Court of Appeals  held that a non-conforming use of a property for adult entertainment may not be limited in temporal (time) scope.  The Court noted Maryland's "well-established policy against the expansion of nonconforming uses", but drew a distinction between expansion and intensification.  Frequency of use, was not rationalized by the Court as prohibited expansion of the use, but was merely an intensification.  Decision at page 6.  Maryland law supports intensification of the use "so long as the nature and character of that use is unchanged and is substantially the same".  Decision at page 16.

The Court also affirmed the lower court decision that the owner of a valid non-conforming use did not need to obtain a license for the use.

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