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A brief look at how the zoning board weighs requests for variances

In our last post, we began speaking about the issue of zoning, and the importance of working with an experienced attorney when dealing with zoning matters. For businesses and real estate developers, one of the ways zoning issues can come up is when a variance or special exception needs to be requested.

Variances and special exceptions to zoning rules may only be granted when an application is properly submitted and specific criteria are met. The criteria for variances and special exceptions are different, and it is up to the applicant to demonstrate that a variance or exception should be granted. 

When a variance is sought, the party making the request must demonstrate that there are unique extraordinary or exceptional conditions relating to the size, shape or topography of the property which justify a departure from limitations imposed by the zoning rules. It must also be shown that the zoning ordinance imposes an undue hardship in the use of the property. In addition, a variance will not be granted if doing so would cause “substantial detriment to the public good or impair the purpose and intent of the zoning ordinance.”

Each of these factors must be satisfactorily explained. Special exceptions, which are different from variances, have their own set of criteria which must be met before the zoning board will approve a request.

Navigating the process of obtaining a variance or special exception is not necessarily an easy matter, and it is important to work with an experienced advocate to ensure one’s interests are zealously represented and one has the best opportunity to achieve the desired outcome. 

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