City of Saginaw, Michigan

When staff is informed about a non-conforming use, research is initiated to determine when the use was established so a determination can be made as to whether the use was legally established and "Grandfathered In", or illegally established and in violation of the zoning code. Conversions of dwellings to two and multiple family dwellings and rooming houses are the most common non-conforming uses that come before staff.

The following is the procedure that would be followed to determine if a use was legally established and allowed to remain. In this example a two unit dwelling is found in an R-1, single family zoning district which does not allow two family dwellings:

Check to see if the use as a two family dwelling is shown in any records in the Building Inspection office or City Clerk's office. In the Building Inspections office a book of legal non-conforming uses has been maintained over the years and this book is checked to see if the property was listed there. A land use survey was done in 1952 and a Sanborn Book is referred to to see if the use is shown there. The 1950 and 1958 City directories are reviewed to determine if the use was established prior to those years. (The 1950 and 1958 dates are used because these were the times when new zoning codes were adopted or major changes were made). The use of the city directories are only used as supporting evidence in determining the legal non conforming status of a use. A review of old rental licences is also done in the City Clerk's Office.

  • Check Board of Appeals on Zoning Files to see if Zoning Board of Appeals granted a variance for use of the property. Board of Appeals case files going back to the 1930's are located here at City Hall and if a variance was requested there would be a file on it.
  • If it is found that the 2 unit dwelling was legally established, the owner is notified and asked to have the property registered in the City Clerk's Office, if not presently registered.
  • If it is found that the two unit dwelling was not legally established that owner is notified and informed of the options available from this point. Options include converting the structure back to a single family dwelling or filing an appeal with the zoning board for a variance.

The policy that has been established in determining whether converted residential units are allowed to remain is as follows:

The number of units must be verified in the legal non-conforming book and/or the Sanborn Map survey that was done in 1952, or there must be an old license on file in the City Clerk's Office and signed by someone from Building Inspections Division of the Department of Public Services and Engineering. The use of old City Directories is used only as supporting evidence in determining the number of units and does not stand alone as proof of the legal number of dwelling units established.