Proving the Case for a Variance

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Being granted a variance from the local zoning rules can be an uphill battle for the homeowner who wants to change the permitted use of his land. The property owner might need to prove that the new use still preserves the appearance and ambience of neighboring properties, is applicable only to his unique piece of land, and not to surrounding properties, and, more importantly, the existing restrictions create a serious hardship on him.  In evaluating the hardship, the local zoning board looks at the circumstances and general objectives of zoning in this neighborhood, the nature of the change, its effect on adjacent neighbors, and the practical difficulty in using the property.

If the owner applicant wants a variance in the size of the structure, the property owner must demonstrate that the project is modest, blends in with the essential character of the existing neighborhood, can’t be readily achieved in some other way, and if not granted, would cause an economic burden on the applicant.

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