Kennel Preventing Occupancy Permit Issuance

by Kenny
(Crafton Pa )

Visitor Question: I purchased an old house with two kennels built, ONE DIRECTLY BEHIND THE HOUSE AND ONE ADJACENT TO THAT BUILDING. It is zoned light industrial.

One kennel is small, 800 sq. ft., and one is two-story 20x66 ft., which straddles the property line.

All was good till the original owner sold the house and small kennel and kept her parcel which had the half the big kennel with the property line right down the middle. I came along and purchased the house and small kennel and half of the long kennel since half is on my property and half is on the old owners.

The municipality will not issue an occupancy permit since the long kennel has two parcel numbers. I do not want to knock down my half of the 66 ft long kennel in order to get a permit and they refuse to give a permit for the house and small kennel even though they violate no laws.

If I knock down my half, it will leave an open warehouse in a residential community. I also do not want to create an environmental footprint caused by the demolition. I have offered to lock and leave the long kennel vacant but the boro is hellbent on me knocking down my half as the only way they will issue a permit.

I plan to plead my dilemma in front of zoning board. Any advice would be very appreciated. Thank you KB

Editors Comment: Your question shows why zoning questions are not as dull as one might think!

We hope we are understanding your facts accurately, but if not, our comments will show what we were thinking.

Looking at the big picture, let's see who made a mistake here. Surely whoever or whatever allowed the parcel you bought to be carved out of the original larger parcel is at fault. If your municipality allows one lot to be split off from a larger lot without any review, that is a problem of lack of proper subdivision regulation. If they require review (often called minor subdivision when two lots are created from one), but missed the problem with the kennel, shame on them. But in that case, they owe you some help in making this right.

Depending on the individual facts of the case and the custom where you are located in Pennsylvania, the title company also might have been morally responsible for catching this error or problematic situation before you purchased your property.

Lastly, the seller surely should have been aware that the lot being sold to you would contain part of a building and therefore create an unworkable situation.

You have some very good points to make in front of the zoning board, namely your wish to avoid doing something lacking in common sense by demolishing half a building, and also your wish to avoid creating environmental hazards.

But let's suppose the worst case, that the zoning board sides with the official who told you to demolish your half of the building. You might want to explore these options with the person who sold you the property:

1. Is it feasible to sell the other portion of the building (and the land underneath it, of course) to the person who sold you this land?

2. If not, is it feasible for you to buy the other half of the kennel from the person who sold you the land?

3. Is the person who sold you your home willing to tear down her half of the dog kennel as well? Then it would make sense to divide in half the cost of the demolition, and you could obtain your occupancy permit. You could offer to take care of hiring a contractor or do the work yourself, no doubt saving her money on her half of the demolition.

4. If you were intending to use the larger dog kennel when you purchased the property, you might want to add to your "half" of the existing building and then demolish just enough to separate your part from the other owner's section and build a new wall.

It is not unusual, by the way, for a zoning official or board to insist that everything about a property be in compliance with existing laws before an occupancy permit will be issued.

But with patience, and cooperation from the previous owner, you should be able to get past this problem. If the person who sold you the land is uncooperative, you might want to see an attorney about the real estate transaction, since she essentially has sold you a home that cannot be occupied.

Good luck with all of this.

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