Zoning variance

What is a zoning variance?

A zoning variance is an exception to a zoning ordinance that’s granted on a case-by-case basis by a local government.

Deeper definition

There are many situations that may require a zoning variance. These include:

  • Engaging in construction or some other alteration so that the building or property can be used for a new zoning classification.
  • Intent to change the use of an existing property or building.
  • Intent to build a structure on vacant property.
  • Intent to change some land parcel to a different zoning classification.

Zoning variances are the exception, not the rule. This means that if you follow your due diligence and submit the required documentation, you still may not be granted a zoning variance. Zoning restrictions are in place in most communities in order to protect the property values of homes.

Zoning variances can threaten the interests of nearby properties. Municipalities can give zoning variances to businesses or persons who present a valid reason for requiring a variance. If a business owner can prove that the business will not reduce the value of the adjacent properties, then the zoning variance may be granted. Sometimes business owners must appear before city councils or other local governing bodies to present their cases.

Zoning variance example

If you are buying a piece of land in a residential neighborhood and desire to build a pizza parlor that you think will attract customers and make it a more enjoyable place to be, you may request a zoning variance from the local government. You must be able to prove that your pizza parlor will not lower the value of surrounding properties.

You may have to plead your case before the city council and show documentation that outlines your building plans to prove your intent. If the council decides to grant your variance, you can proceed with building your pizza parlor. If it denies your request, you need to find a new location for your pizza business.

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