Zoning Law 101: How to Obtain a Zoning Variance

Zoning variances provide administrative relief from zoning requirements that would present unique difficulties for a property owner when strict compliance is enforced. It essentially allows the property owner to disregard a specific ordinance provision after the Zoning Board of Appeals conducts its investigations. Variance requests could include things such as relief from parking, building height, setback, and landscaping requirements. 

The four main types of variances are:

1. Use Variance 

This variance gives the property owner permission to use a piece of land in a way that was originally restricted in that zoning region. As a result, the space is effectively rezoned without the use of legislative action. Most people request for Use Variances when it is virtually impossible to use the property as it is currently zoned, and they have already made previous attempts to obtain local approval with no success.

2. Administrative Review 

Administrative Review comes into play when a property owner believes that an error was made when enforcing a certain provision of the zoning ordinance. An appeal is made to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which then assesses whether the individual or commission in charge of the process might have made a mistake. The property owner must file the appeal within 30 days of the provision being enforced.

3. Interpretation 

A property owner can send a request to the Zoning Board of Appeals to interpret the Zoning Ordinance text.

4. Non-use Variance 

If a property owner wants permission to disregard certain development standards of a zone district, they can request for a non-use Variance. Some of these development standards include building height, setback distance, and off-street parking space, among others.

How to obtain a zoning variance

To obtain a zoning variance, you need to submit a request to the Zoning Board of Appeals. It typically takes less than 30 days to complete this request. Here are the steps: 

  1. The petitioner sends an application along with the necessary documents to the City Planning Department, for a fee of $250. Once the Board of Appeals receives the request (ideally within 3 weeks before the next scheduled meeting), it will then table and consider the appeal. 
  2. The second step involves the Planning Department. 
  • The Planning Department publishes a notice of the hearing in the newspaper within at least 10 days of the meeting 
  • A notice of the hearing is sent to all property owners and inhabitants of houses that are within 300 ft. of the region by First class mail. This is done within at least ten days of the public hearing
  • A staff report is prepared for the Zoning Board of Appeals 
  1. The third step involves the Zoning Board of Appeals: 
  • Once the application and staff report reaches the Board, it will mail a copy of its decision to the petitioner 
  • This decision is final, but you can appeal to the Circuit Court

Zoning variances can provide a wide range of possibilities for your land, but they can also lead to a whole new set of problems. Discussing possible changes with an experienced attorney can help you learn more about your options. For more information or further assistance, contact the Law Office of Ray Garcia, P.A.