A Variance is “in the application of a Zoning Ordinance, a reasonable deviation from those provisions regulating the shape, size, or area of a lot or parcel of land or the size, height, area, bulk, or location of a building or structure when the strict application of the Zoning Ordinance would unreasonably restrict the utilization of the property, and such need for a Variance would not be shared generally by other properties, and provided such Variance is not contrary to the purpose of the Zoning Ordinance.” Variances “shall not include a change in use, which change shall be accomplished by a rezoning or by a conditional zoning.” Variance applications and their process are detailed in Section 14-12 of the Zoning Ordinance. Variance applications can be granted either by the Zoning Administrator (as an Administrative Variance) or by the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). A Variance application will not be approved unless it meets the criteria specified in Section 14-12 of the Zoning Ordinance (for Administrative Variances) or Section 14-14 of the Zoning Ordinance (for Variances granted by the BZA).
Administrative Variances may be granted by the Zoning Administrator for building setback requirements only. A Variance application (with the accompanying $275 fee) can be submitted to the Department of Planning and Zoning for review by the Zoning Administrator. Administrative Variances can be granted if the Zoning Administrator finds the following facts:
- Strict application of the ordinance would produce undue hardship;
- Such hardship is not shared by other properties in the same zoning district and same vicinity;
- The variance will not be of substantial detriment to adjacent property and will not change the character of the zoning district.
Upon receipt of an application, if the Zoning Administrator finds that the above criteria are met, he/she will notify all adjacent property owners of the application and the intention to grant an Administrative Variance. Adjacent property owners have 21 days from the date of the notice to respond to the Zoning Administrator regarding the variance application. If the Zoning Administrator receives an objection from an adjacent property owner with 21 days or is unable to make all three of the required findings of fact, the application shall be transmitted to the Board of Zoning Appeals for a public hearing.
Board of Zoning Appeals Variance
A Variance application (with the accompanying $275 fee) can be submitted to the Department of Planning and Zoning for review by staff and the Board of Zoning Appeals. Staff from the County and any other applicable agencies will review the application and, following this review, Planning and Zoning staff will prepare a staff report to be presented to the BZA at a public hearing. Similarly, the BZA will also hold a public hearing on Administrative Variance Applications forwarded by the Zoning Administrator.
Within 60 days after receipt of an application, a public hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals will be held. During this public hearing, staff will present the application to the BZA with their summarized analysis and recommendation. The applicant can speak before the BZA and the public has the opportunity to comment on the application. At this public hearing or a subsequent meeting (but within 30 days following the public hearing), the BZA will decide to approve or deny the application.
Variances can be granted only if the Board of Zoning Appeals finds the following facts:
- Strict application of the terms of the Zoning Ordinance would unreasonably restrict the utilization of the property or that the granting of the Variance would alleviate a hardship due to a physical condition relating to the property or improvements thereon at the time of the effective date of the Zoning Ordinance, or alleviate a hardship by granting a reasonable modification to a property or improvements thereon requested by, or on behalf of, a person with a disability;
- The property interest for which the Variance is being requested was acquired in good faith and any hardship was not created by the applicant for the Variance;
- The granting of the Variance will not be of substantial detriment to adjacent property and nearby properties in the proximity of that geographical area;
- The condition or situation of the property concerned is not of so general or recurring a nature as to make reasonably practicable the formulation of a general regulation to be adopted as an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance;
- The granting of the Variance does not result in a use that is not otherwise permitted on such property or a change in the zoning classification of the property;
- The relief or remedy sought by the Variance application is not available through a special exception process that is authorized in the ordinance pursuant to Subdivision 6 of Section 15.2-2309 or the process for modification of a Zoning Ordinance pursuant to Subdivision A(4) of Section 15.2-2286 at the time of the filing of the Variance application.
In addition to authorizing a Variance to the Zoning Ordinance, the BZA may impose additional conditions regarding the location, character, and other features of the proposed structure or use as it may deem necessary.
Any amendment requested to an approved Variance is considered a new Variance application and, therefore, is reviewed and decided upon by the Zoning Administrator (for Administrative Variances) or Board of Zoning Appeals.
Forms for the Variance application can be found on the Planning and Zoning Department’s Forms and Policies page.