Land Use Variance

A variance is a request to deviate from the current set of rules a municipality applies to land use and land development, typically a zoning ordinance. A variance, if granted, allows the owner of land to use the property in a manner not otherwise permitted by the zoning ordinance. A zoning variance is a specific waiver of requirements of the zoning ordinance.

There are two categories of variances generally used in local land use planning: area variances and use variances.

An area variance is applied for by a builder or landowner when an odd configuration of the land, or sometimes the structures on the land, requires an exception to the applicable zoning restrictions to avoid denying the landowner the same rights and use of the property enjoyed by owners of similarly situated properties. A textbook example would be a house built on an oddly-shaped lot. If the odd shape of the lot makes it unduly burdensome for the landowner or builder to comply with the standard building setbacks specified in the applicable zoning codes, a variance could be applied for to allow a reduced setback.

A use variance is a variance that allows a land use not ordinarily permitted by a particular zoning ordinance.

In either case, a variance application is granted only if special conditions exist on the lot that create a hardship making it overly burdensome to comply with the zoning code's normal requirements. The special conditions or hardship typically must arise from some physical configuration of the lot or its structures. Typically, variances are granted when the property owner can demonstrate that existing zoning regulations present a practical difficulty in making use of the property. Each municipality has rules for variance requests. Usually, the land owner seeking the variance files a request or written application for a variance and pays a fee. Normally, the requests go to a zoning board and/or a variance committee, which may then hold a hearing to determine if the variance should be granted. In some circumstances, the applicant may then be required to appear before the governing body of the municipality (such as a city council) for the final determination.

Rashkin Law is experienced filing and prosecuting variance applications on behalf of its clients, providing professional legal guidance throughout the application process.

Contact a Rashkin Law attorney to discuss your Land Use Variance.