A variance is a special permission, granted through a quasi-judicial process, granting relief from one or more zoning requirements. A variance may only be granted when, as determined by the Zoning Board of Appeals or City Council, special circumstances or special practical difficulties exist in carrying out the strict application of the Zoning Ordinance.
What is the Difference Between a Major and a Minor Variance?
A minor variance is recognized as having potential impact on the immediate neighborhood and adjoining properties; whereas, a major variance is recognized as having potential impact on the larger area and may affect enforcement of the zoning ordinance elsewhere in the City.
Minor Variances. The Zoning Board of Appeals has the authority to grant variances for the following reasons:
- To permit a variance of the depth of a required front or rear yard or the width of a required side yard except that the variance shall not reduce the required yards by greater than 25% of the requirements.
- To permit the creation of a new lot with less lot area than required except that the variance shall not reduce the required lot area by greater than 10%.
- To permit the creation of a new lot with less lot width than required except that the variance shall not reduce the required lot width by greater than 15%.
- To permit a 5% increase in the required floor area ratio and a 5% decrease in the required open space ratio.
- To permit up to a 25% decrease in the number of parking spaces required.
- To permit the Zoning Administrator to approve a building permit or Certificate of Occupancy allowing the substitution of one nonconforming use for another in accordance with Section X-3.
- To permit accessory off-street parking in a location other than the zoning lot of the principal use or within 600 feet, as provided in Section VIII-4.L and Section V-3.G.
- To permit the postponement of the termination of a nonconforming use of land, as required by Section X-6, for a period not to exceed five years.
- To allow a sign to exceed the maximum height or area, as provided in Section IX-4 through Section IX-6 by no more than 15% of the specified requirement, in keeping with the legislative intent specified in Section IX-1.
- To grant a variance from the provisions of Section X-9.B, so as to permit change, alteration, re-establishment, or more than routine maintenance of a nonconforming outdoor advertising sign structure where such change, alteration, re-establishment, or maintenance shall not increase the size of the outdoor advertising sign structure, make it radiate or reflect more light, or otherwise make it visually more objectionable.
Those variance requests not qualifying as minor variances are classified as major variances. A major variance request is heard by the Zoning Board of Appeals, then passed to the City Council with a recommendation. The Council grants or denies the major variance.
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