Why Do I Need a Zoning Variance?

Zoning refers to laws that govern the way land and property is developed and used. If the zoning in the area where your property is located requires a different type of use, then you may need to get a zoning variance. It is important you consider this before you buy property and that you understand exactly what zoning restrictions are in place and what you can do about those restrictions.

Types of Zoning

There are several common types of zoning:

  • Residential
  • Recreational
  • Commercial
  • Industrial

For example, areas that are zone R5 protect rural areas that are not densely populated from having commercial, industrial, and even moderate residential units built. On the other hand, commercial zones can have specific combined commercial and industrial facilities in one area, and other combinations in another area. Some areas can have mixed zoning, such as in downtown urban areas where regions can be both commercial and residential.

What is a Variance?

If you need to change the current zoning requirements for your property, you must apply for a variance. If your request for a zoning variance is accepted, it means that you can use your property for something other than its original zoning or make changes to the property that amount to a change in zoning laws. It is important to note that a variance amounts to an exception to the zoning laws in that particular area. It does not change those laws. It is commonly referred to as a waiver of zoning laws. One example of a variance might be applying to add another story to a property where only one story is typically permitted.

When Would I need a Variance?

If you are doing any work on your property that may not comply with zoning codes, you would do well to check with your zoning office first, and apply for a variance if necessary. This variance would allow you to not meet the specific zoning requirements.

There are a variety of projects that can involve zoning variances. Such projects include changing a driveway, adding another story to your home, or building above a garage may all require zoning variances. You may be surprised by the things that require zoning variances, so be sure to check with your zoning office before you begin any construction.

How Do I apply for a Variance?

You must complete forms provided by the Office of Planning and Zoning in your municipality. Your local Administrative Hearings Office will schedule a hearing that is open to the public and will accept testimony for and against your application. That means that your neighbors will be contacted and given the opportunity to weigh in on your application. The board will then determine whether or not to grant your request for a variance.

Getting Help

Before purchasing property, you should work with a qualified attorney to understand how that property is zoned and whether the zoning rules will work with your needs. If you have already bought property and need a variance, it is also a good idea to get an attorney involved to help you go through the process of applying for the variance.

Talk to a Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Get Professional Help

Talk to a Real Estate attorney.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you