What is a Zoning Variance, and Why Do You Need One?

It is a legal permission that allows property owners to bypass local zoning ordinances when constructing or using their property. Zoning ordinances dictate how land can be used within a specific area. However, there are situations where property owners may want to use land in a way that is not directly allowed by the zoning ordinance. A zoning variance can be obtained to grant permission for the desired use in such cases.

Who Are Permit Expeditors?

They are professionals who specialize in navigating the permit application process on behalf of property owners. They are well-versed in local building codes, zoning regulations, and permit requirements, making them valuable allies for property owners seeking to obtain permits quickly and efficiently. Permit expeditors can help with various types of permits, from construction permits to zoning permits, occupancy permits, and more.

Permit expeditors can save property owners time, money, and potential headaches by working closely with the relevant authorities, submitting accurate and complete applications, and managing the permit process. Their experience and knowledge of the permit process can be instrumental in ensuring a smooth and successful permit application.

Understanding Zoning Variances

Zoning variances are necessary when property owners want to construct a building or use their land in a way that is not directly allowed within the zoning classification. For example, if an owner of a construction company wants to operate in an area that is only zoned for retail stores, they would need a zoning variance to construct their building.

Types Of Zoning Variances

Area variances and use variances. An area variance allows property owners to construct a building that deviates from the physical requirements set by the zoning ordinance. On the other hand, a use variance grants property owners the ability to utilize their land in a way that is typically prohibited by zoning laws. Obtaining a use variance can be more challenging compared to an area variance due to the stricter regulations involved.

Reasons For Obtaining a Zoning Variance

Property owners might need to obtain a zoning variance for various reasons. Some common causes include:

  • Wanting to construct a building on vacant land.
  • Changing the classification or use of an existing building.
  • Using the ground for a different purpose than stated in the zoning classification.

The Process of Obtaining a Zoning Variance

Obtaining a zoning variance can indeed be a complex and time-consuming process. Property owners are required to complete an application with the local zoning board or building inspector, with specific requirements varying depending on the city.

After submission, the zoning board carefully reviews the application, taking into account factors like the potential impact on the surrounding community, before making a decision to grant or deny the variance. This thorough evaluation ensures that any changes align with the existing zoning regulations and the best interests of the community.

Challenging A Zoning Ordinance

Property owners may sometimes choose to challenge a zoning ordinance if they believe it does not meet the requirements set forth by the master plan. While challenging the regulation may result in a partial change, obtaining a zoning variance can make it easier.

Tips For Obtaining a Zoning Variance

To increase the chances of obtaining a zoning variance, property owners should:

  • Review the application requirements thoroughly.
  • Consult with a contractor or architect for guidance.
  • Obtain permission from neighbors to address any potential concerns.
  • Attend zoning board meetings to present their case.
  • Consider seeking assistance from a real estate lawyer experienced in zoning variances.


Obtaining a zoning variance is essential for property owners who want to construct or use their land in a way not directly allowed by the local zoning ordinance. Understanding the types of variances, the process of obtaining one, and seeking appropriate guidance can help property owners navigate the complexities of zoning regulations and successfully get a zoning variance.

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