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Boehm v. Town of Sullivan's Island Board of Zoning Appeals

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

March 28, 2018

Paul Boehm, Respondent,
v.
Town of Sullivan's Island Board of Zoning Appeals and Town of Sullivan's Island, Appellants. Appellate Case No. 2015-001230

          Heard April 11, 2017

          Appeal From Charleston County R. Markley Dennis, Jr., Circuit Court Judge

          George Trenholm Walker and John Phillips Linton, Jr., both of Walker Gressette Freeman & Linton, LLC, of Charleston, for Appellants.

          Alice F. Paylor, of Rosen Rosen & Hagood, LLC, of Charleston, for Respondent.

          KONDUROS, J.

         The Town of Sullivan's Island (the Town) and the Town of Sullivan's Island Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) (collectively, Appellants) appeal the circuit court's order reversing the BZA's decision to affirm the zoning administrator's denial and limitation of permits requested by Paul Boehm to make certain alterations to his building and nearby structures. Appellants contend the circuit court erred in determining (1) Boehm's building was a second principal building, rather than an accessory structure and (2) Boehm could expand the building. We affirm.

         THE TOWN'S ZONING ORDINANCES

         The application of the Town's zoning ordinances to Boehm's property is a tortured one involving multiple requests for alterations, building inspectors, and zoning reviews. To aid in application to the facts, we provide the relevant portions of those ordinances before discussing the facts.

(1) Principal Building Coverage Area. The Lot Area covered by the Principal Building measured vertically downward from the Principal Building's exterior walls to the ground (also known as the building footprint area), but excludes areas covered only by:
(a) accessory structures not readily useable as living space;
(b) exterior porches and decks; and,
(c) exterior stairs.
(2) Principal Building. A building or buildings in which the principal use of the lot is conducted. The term also specifically applies to multiple dwellings located on the same lot, including an historic structure used as an accessory dwelling unit.

         Town of Sullivan's Island, S.C., Zoning Ordinance (T.Z.O.) § 21-25(A) (2007). "No Principal Building shall be erected, altered or moved so as to exceed thirty-eight (38) feet in overall height." T.Z.O. § 21-54(A)

         "Accessory structures shall . . . . [n]ot exceed 15 feet in height, except that the height may be extended to 18 feet where the pitch of the accessory structure[']s roof is not less than seven on twelve (7/12) . . . ." T.Z.O. § 21-138(A)(3)(a). The Zoning Ordinances provide an accessory structure cannot have a separate electric meter or be connected to the sewer system. T.Z.O. § 21-138(A)(7).

In the event that two or more Principal Buildings occupy a single lot, said occupancy shall constitute a non-conforming use. One structure shall be designated conforming and the other(s) shall be non-conforming under the following procedure:
(1) If a request to improve the property is received, the Zoning Administrator shall designate the Principal Building with the greatest livable square footage, including porches, as a conforming use and the other Principal Buildings as non-conforming.
(2) The designation of conforming and non-conforming Principal Buildings shall be recorded on the Certificate of Occupancy that is on file in the Town Hall.
(3) A Building Permit for improvements to the designated conforming Principal Building may be considered favorably, provided all other requirements of the Town Ordinances are met. The non-conforming structure(s) shall be regulated in accordance with Subsections A-E.

T.Z.O. § 21-150(F) (emphasis added).

         "A Nonconforming Use is a land use that was legally established but that is no longer allowed by the use regulations of the Zoning District in which it is located. . . . A Nonconforming Use shall not be expanded except to eliminate or reduce the nonconforming aspects." T.Z.O. § 21-150(A), (B) (emphasis added). "A Nonconforming Structure is any building or structure that was legally established but no longer complies with the density, lot coverage, floor area, height and dimensional standards of this Zoning Ordinance. Nonconforming Structures may remain, subject to the regulations of this Article." T.Z.O. § 21-151(A). For nonconforming structures, "[s]tructural alterations, including enlargements, are permitted if the structural alteration does not increase the extent of nonconformity." T.Z.O. § 21-151(B)(1) (emphasis added).

(1) Incidental repairs and normal maintenance necessary to keep a Nonconforming Structure in sound condition are permitted unless such repairs are otherwise expressly prohibited by this Zoning Ordinance.
(2) Nothing in this Article will be construed to prevent Structures from being structurally strengthened or restored to a safe condition, in accordance with an official order of a public official.

T.Z.O. § 21-149(F).

         The following relevant definitions are provided by the Town's zoning ordinance. T.Z.O. § 21-203. "Principal Use. The specific, primary purpose for which land or a building is used." Id. "Building, Principal. [ ]A building in which the principal use of the lot is conducted." Id. "Accessory Use or Structure. A use or structure subordinate to the Principal Building on a lot and used for purposes customarily incidental to the main or principal use or building and located on the same lot." Id. "Garage, private. An accessory building or portion of a Principal Building used only for the private storage of motor vehicles, campers, boats, boat trailers and lawn mowers, as an accessory use." Id.

Dwelling. A building or portion of a building arranged or designed to provide living quarters for a single family, with no structural features impeding free access throughout the entire structure by all members of the family. . . . .
Dwelling, Single Family. A detached Principal Building other than a mobile home designed for or occupied exclusively by a single family on a single lot. Dwelling, Upper Story. An attached dwelling constructed as an integral part of a non-residential Principal Building located on the second floor.

Id. The definition for Residence simply states "See 'Dwelling.'" Id.

Nonconforming Structure. Any building or structure that was legally established but no longer complies with the density, lot coverage, floor area, height and dimensional standards of this Zoning Ordinance. Nonconforming Use. A land use that was legally established but that is no longer allowed by the use regulations of the Zoning District in which it is located.
Nonconformities. Uses, structures, lots, signs and other situations that came into existence legally and continued to exist as a legal nonconforming use until the time of the adoption of this ordinance but that do not conform to ...

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