The Zoning Board of Appeals
The Zoning Board of Appeals hears all requests for variations to zoning restrictions and all appeals from administrative decisions based on an interpretation of the Zoning Ordinance (e.g., a decision made by an inspector or the city administrator).
A variation, commonly referred to as a variance, is an exception to a zoning restriction that allows the property owner to, in effect, violate an applicable zoning restriction.
The Board does not hear petitions for zoning changes (e.g., a change from B2 to M1). Zoning changes amount to a permanent change in the way an area is zoned and how that area can be used in the future. Hence, zoning changes fall under the purview of the Plan Commission.
Variances to the regulations prescribed by the Zoning Ordinance extend only to fences and walls, site areas, width, frontage, depth, coverage, front yard, rear yard, side yards, height of structures, distance between structures, off-street parking facilities and off-street loading facilities. A variance DOES NOT extend to Use Regulations or Zoning Changes.
Findings of Fact
In considering all appeals and all proposed variations to the Zoning Ordinance, the Zoning Board of Appeals shall, before recommending that the City Council grant any variation from the Zoning Ordinance in a specific case, first determine and make a finding of fact that the proposed variation will not:
- Impair an adequate supply of light and air to adjacent property
- Unreasonably increase the congestion in public streets
- Increase the danger of fire or endanger public safety
- Unreasonably diminish or impair established property values within the surrounding area
- Merely serve as a convenience to the applicant (but is necessary to alleviate some demonstrable hardship or difficulty)
- In any other respect impair the public health, safety, comfort, morality and welfare of the inhabitants of the City
To secure a variance from the Zoning Ordinance, the petitioner must:
- Identify any special circumstances or difficulties in carrying out the strict application of the Zoning Ordinance with respect to the subject property
- Explain why the variance is necessary due to special conditions relating to the land or structure which are not generally applicable to other property in your neighborhood
- Explain why the variance is NOT the result of a situation or conditions that was knowingly or deliberately created by you (the Petitioner)
- Explain why the variance will NOT alter the essential character of the neighborhood
- Explain why the variance will NOT cause a nuisance to adjacent property
- Explain why the variance represents the minimum deviation necessary from the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance
The Effective Period of a Permit Once Granted
No order for a variance permitting the erection or alteration of a building shall be valid for a period longer than six (6) months unless such use is established within such period; provided, however, that where such use permitted is dependent upon the erection or alteration of a building, such order shall continue in force and effect if a building permit for said erection or alteration is obtained within such period and such erection or alteration is started and proceeds to completion in accordance with the terms of such permit.
Additionally, no order for a variance permitting a use of a building or premises shall be valid for a period longer than six (6) months, unless such use is established within such period; provided, however, that where such use permitted is dependent upon the erection or alteration of a building, such order shall continue in force and effect if a building permit for said erection or alteration is obtained within such period and such erection or alteration is started and proceeds to completion in accordance with the terms of such permit.
Responsibilities of the City Council
Upon receipt of the report and recommendations from the Zoning Board of Appeals to grant or deny the variation, the Council, without further public hearing, may adopt the proposed variation or may refer it back to the Board for further consideration, and any proposed variation which fails to receive the approval of the Board of Appeals shall not be passed except by a favorable vote of two-thirds (2/3rds) of all the members of the City Council. In making any variation, the Council shall be governed by the same considerations and restrictions as set forth above.
No variation in any case shall be made by the City Council without a hearing by the Zoning Board of Appeals as required by Ordinance, nor without a report thereof having been made by the Board to the City Council, and every report shall be accompanied by a finding of fact specifying the reasons for the report.