Legal Nonconforming Use (LNCU)
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Legal Nonconforming Uses (LNCU)

Applications are available on our Applications & Forms page.


Any continuous, lawfully established building or structure erected or constructed prior to the time of adoption, revision or amendment, or granted a variance of the zoning ordinance, but which fails, by reason of such adoption, revision, amendment or variance, to conform to the present requirements of the zoning district


Any continuous, lawful land use having commenced prior to the time of adoption, revision or amendment or granted a variance of the zoning ordinance, but which fails, by reason of such adoption, revision, amendment, or variance to conform to the present requirements of the zoning district.

A nonconforming use is the use of a particular parcel of land that is not permitted by the current zoning requirements of the applicable zoning classification. Nonconforming uses may or may not include nonconforming development standards. There may also be nonconforming sites, whose use is conforming, but whose development standards may not conform to current ordinances. 

If a nonconforming use has existed continually since a date prior to April 8, 1969 and has not been the subject of a public health or safety violation or other action relating to activity occurring on the property or condition of the property, a legal nonconforming use certificate can be issued. The nonconforming use certificate is an exception to the Ordinance, which permits the legalization of uses, structures, and development standards regardless of whether or not they were legal at the time of construction. However, the legal non-conforming use certificate does not allow a structure to be rebuilt if destruction exceeds 2/3rds of the total floor area. Only a variance of use and sometimes a rezoning can allow a 100% rebuild of a property after total destruction occurs. A rezoning sometimes does not permit a 100% rebuild, because nonconforming development standards (like setbacks) may not be able to be replicated.


In order to submit an application, the following items are required to be submitted:

  • A completed, typewritten application, signed by the owner of the subject property or an authorized agent, and notarized
  • A legal description of the property
  • A consent form, if applicable
  • A real estate use history questionnaire
  • A zoning base map, copies of which are available in Suite 1821 of the City-County Building (317-327-5155) for a fee of $1.00 per map (Please shade, crosshatch, or circle property being considered for a LNCU)
  • A completed checklist
  • Non-refundable filing fees of a) $299.00 for single or two family residential use and associated development standards, or b) $479.00 for all other uses and development standards with checks made payable to the City Controller

Additional Required Information

In order for an application for a certificate to be considered, the following evidence must also be provided at the time of application:

  • Township Assessor Property Cards (Buff Card) and Plat Map. This information may be obtained at the applicable Assessor's Office for the township where the parcel is located.  Highlight or circle the applicable lot(s) or parcel(s) on the plat map. Some of the Assessors have cards from assessments from previous years. Ask for all cards available.

  • City Directories (also known as Haines Directories or Polk Directories). Trace the history of a property as far back as possible by providing a copy of the page of each year's directory showing the address in question. Make sure each page shows the address and name of the establishment and/or tenants, and the year of the directory. Please highlight or underline the address entry. The State Library has a complete set of the directories. The main branch of the Marion County Public Library has a partial set of the directories.


Public notice is provided for a LNCU petition only after it has been approved. Then a copy of the decision is provided to all registered neighborhood groups whose boundaries include the subject site.


After a certificate is issued, the property owner must record it in the Marion County Recorder's Office.


A petitioner or remonstrator (anyone opposing a decision) has the right to appeal any decision related to a legal non-conforming use petition to the Board of Zoning Appeals, within 60 calendar days of the decision. An appeal requires the filing of an approval petition, with a fee of $99.