A variance is a request to deviate from current zoning requirements (land use). If a variance is granted, it allows the owner or land buyer (residential, commercial or industrial) to use the land in a manner not otherwise permitted by the zoning ordinance. It is not a change in the zoning law but rather a specific waiver of requirements of the zoning ordinance.
Variances are often granted when a property owner can demonstrate that the existing zoning regulations present a practical difficulty (hardship) in making use of the property. Examples of common requested variances can include additions of detached home offices, barns, out-buildings, tennis courts, garage enclosures, and guest houses. Variances are often needed to modify ordinance standards for setbacks, lot coverage, parking, building heights or similar standards.
There are two general categories of variances used in the practice of land use planning:
- Use Variances – A Use Variance allows property owners to use their property in a way that deviates from local zoning standards. Exceptions to rules governing the use of the property are referred to as “Use” variances. This is similar to a special use-permit (conditional use permit). An example of use variance would be allowing a retail business in a residential area.
- Area Variances – An Area Variance offers an exception for property owners or builders who encounter difficulties complying with a dimensional or physical building requirement. An example of area variance would be a setback issue regarding the location of a home, driveway, fence, or building.
A municipality’s local planning agency or its city commission are typically the organizations that can grant variances and will render their decision after applying certain statutory standards. In order to get a variance an owner must satisfy legal tests, including the showing that a property hardship that is not self-imposed.
Typically, a land owner submits a request or written application to their zoning board or local planning agency requesting a variance together with the applicable filing fee. The zoning board or local planning agency will notify any affected party (ex. adjacent property owners) and schedule a hearing to determine the merit of the variance, at which time, the applicant may also be required to appear before the zoning board or local planning agency before they render their decision.
KALIS, KLEIMAN & WOLFE’s attorney have more than 50 years of experience handling land use, zoning and variances. Our lawyers have served as chairs on area planning and zoning boards and community redevelopment agencies. We understand that the variance process can be complex. We are able to quickly and effectively prepare variance applications, including demonstrating that all variance tests are met, and present them to zoning administrators and boards of adjustment.
If you have questions regarding permits, variances or code amendments, or if your variance was challenged by an appeal or denied, contact the experience Real Estate attorneys at KALIS, KLEIMAN & WOLFE, the South Florida-based real estate law firm today at (954) 791-0477.