What exactly does

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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What exactly does

We live on a small canal off of the inter-coastal waterway. Many many years ago the neighbor on the other side of the canal built a boat house in the waterway occupying approximately 50% of the width of the canal. The boat house was removed this week but new owner doesn’t want to dig out his property to build a new boat shed, instead believes that he is grandfathered in and is building in the canal again. It was difficult for us to

maneuver our boat with the old boat house being almost directly behind our boat house which is dug into our property like everyone else but this one homeowner. It is also a very tight squeeze for members of our community who use our neighborhood boat dock to exit in their boats with this in the canal. There is not other way out of this canal. He has received permitting from the city, state and land and corps of engineers to go back into the same footprint. Coincidentally, he is employed with the corps of engineers. According to what I see online, corps of engineer permitting only allows 25% of a waterway to be

blocked. He is at or around 50%. We would prefer he not block at all but those are the rules I guess. No one has a giant boat they exit with, maybe 19-21 footers. Back when the boat house was built, I am sure most boats weren’t much larger than a canoe. What can we do? I would think a structure is only grandfathered in for the lifespan of the structure, then you must obide by any new rules.

Asked on July 28, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Alabama


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

"Grandfathered" in the law means that something which is currently not permitted or legal is allowed because it was done or created prior to the law being changed. There is NO right to have anything grandfathered, however; the laws can and do change leaving people who built something pre-change out in the lurch. Grandathering is just a catch all term for decision makers (e.g. a city council, a state legislature, etc.) authorizing an exception for older uses. It is voluntary for decision makers to do this, and since it is voluntary, they can set any limits on it they want--e.g. exacty is was, indefinitely; for a limited time, or with certain other limitations; etc. If what your neighbor was doing was properly approved by by all the relevant decision makers, there is nothing you can do about this.

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