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(a) Within the districts established by this title there may exist lots, structures and uses of land and structures which were lawful before this title was adopted, but which would be prohibited, regulated or restricted under the terms of this title.

(b) It is the intent of this title to permit these pre-existing nonconforming uses to continue until removed by economic forces or otherwise, but not to encourage their survival except in cases where continuance thereof would not be contrary to the public health, safety or welfare, or the intent of chapter.

(c) Failure of a structure or use to meet one or more of the current requirements of this title renders the structure or use nonconforming only to the extent that it does not meet the applicable provisions. For this purpose, this chapter separates nonconforming situations into three main categories:

(1) Nonconforming lots;

(2) Nonconforming structures, not involving a nonconforming use; and

(3) Nonconforming uses of structures or land.

(d) To avoid undue hardship, nothing in this title shall be deemed to require a change in the plans, construction or designated use of any structure on which actual construction or use was lawfully begun and diligently carried on according to the terms of approval issued, prior to the adoption of this chapter. Actual construction shall mean materials placed in permanent position and fastened in a permanent manner. Where demolition or removal of an existing building or structure has been substantially begun preparatory to rebuilding, such demolition or removal shall be deemed to be actual construction; provided, that work shall be diligently carried on until completion of the building involved.

(e) The ownership of property classified as nonconforming may be transferred without that fact alone affecting the right to continue the nonconforming use or structure.

(f) The owner of any nonconforming lot, use or structure shall be responsible for providing substantial evidence that such lot, use or structure was legally established. When a nonconforming use is involved, the property owner shall also provide substantial evidence that the use has been in continuous use or operation. The administrative official shall, upon request, assist the property owner in locating public records that pertain to the legal status of the nonconformity.

(g) If the administrative official cannot conclusively determine that the nonconformity was lawfully established and has been in continuous use or operation since the adoption of this title then the administrative official may refer the matter to the planning commission, hearing examiner or legislative body for review. The planning commission, hearing examiner or legislative body is authorized to render a decision as to whether the nonconforming use or structure was lawfully established and in continuous use or operation, and review the use or structure for compliance with this chapter. (Ord. 1634 § 141, 2004.)