Sometimes a property owner’s plans for a property may be inconsistent and nonconforming with existing zoning regulations. If a property is unique or has certain circumstances that make it difficult to develop in conformity with the zoning regulations, the property owner may consider requesting a variance.
A variance is a waiver or modification of a zoning regulation. To be successful, a request for a variance must be thorough and make an effective case to the local appeal authority.
How to request a zoning variance
A request for a variance is sent to the appeal authority. The applicant must demonstrate five key criteria to obtain a variance:
- Literal enforcement of the ordinance would cause an unreasonable hardship for the applicant that is not necessary to carry out the general purpose of the land use ordinances;
- There are special circumstances attached to the property that do not generally apply to other properties in the same zone;
- Granting the variance is essential to the enjoyment of a substantial property right possessed by other property in the same zone;
- The variance will not substantially affect the general plan and will not be contrary to the public interest; and
- The spirit of the land use ordinance is observed and substantial justice done.
The appeal authority may grant a variance only if it is clear from the record that all five of the above criteria are satisfied. If there is a deficiency in the record, neighboring property owners can potentially challenge the legality of the variance in court.
An in-depth knowledge of the law and legal finesse are necessary to navigate these issues. A property owner should consult with an attorney to determine whether a request for a variance is a viable option.