Considering Legal Help in Applying for a Property Variance

UPDATED: Jul 12, 2023Fact Checked

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Jeffrey Johnson

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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 12, 2023

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UPDATED: Jul 12, 2023Fact Checked

A property owner may want to use his land in a way not permitted under the local zoning ordinance. So, he may decide to file an application requesting a variance to use his property in a way ordinarily not permitted by the local zoning laws.

Success in Applying for the Variance

In applying for a waiver from the requirements of the local zoning laws, the owner applicant may question his/her ability to handle the procedures and the likelihood of success in obtaining the needed variance without outside help. In some instances, it may be an easy process for the owner to submit the request without outside legal assistance. Success may be inevitable if his neighbors already received their variances to bypass existing zoning laws. Maybe the applicant is seeking only minor deviations from the zoning requirements, such as changing the setback requirements for fencing. In this type of request, there is a likelihood that the variance would be granted, as opposed to wanting a new activity such as a roadside juice bar in a strictly residential zone.

Factors in Granting the Requested Variance

Whether the owner applicant is successful depends heavily on a number of factors, among which is supporting data (e.g., drawings, color slides, building plans, testimony, appraisals), the makeup of the zoning board, public comment, and the impact of your proposed change on the community and their quality of life. The approval or denial of variances is largely discretionary and it goes without saying that a certain amount of politics could be involved in getting an application approved.

Outside Help in Obtaining the Variance

It may difficult to comply with the existing zoning because of the owner’s desired use of his property. The owner applicant wants to apply for a variance, but does not fully understand the procedures and questions his likelihood of success. Hiring a local real estate attorney familiar with the zoning ordinance and able to assist in the zoning process can mean the difference between a variance request which is approved and one which is denied. The attorney can walk you through the variance procedures, knowing when to bring in additional experts such as architects or builders to support the data necessary to win your case. And, this local attorney can introduce you to the local officials who may be more willing to listen to your unique situation.

Case Studies: Applying for a Property Variance

Case Study 1: Success Through Minor Deviations

A property owner seeks a variance to make minor deviations from the zoning requirements. The owner’s neighbors have already obtained variances, which increases the likelihood of success.

The requested changes, such as modifying setback requirements for fencing, align with existing zoning laws, making the variance approval more probable.

Case Study 2: Factors Influencing Variance Approval

This explores the various factors that can affect the approval of a requested variance. It emphasizes the importance of supporting data, such as drawings, building plans, and appraisals, as well as public comment and the impact of the proposed change on the community.

Additionally, it acknowledges the discretionary nature of variances and the potential involvement of politics in the decision-making process.

Case Study 3: Seeking Outside Help for Variances

The property owner faces difficulties in complying with existing zoning laws due to their desired use of the property. Uncertain about the procedures and chances of success, the owner decides to hire a local real estate attorney who is well-versed in the zoning ordinance.

The attorney’s expertise helps navigate the variance process, involving additional experts when necessary and establishing connections with local officials who may be more receptive to the owner’s unique situation.

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Jeffrey Johnson

Insurance Lawyer

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...

Insurance Lawyer

Mary Martin

Published Legal Expert

Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

Published Legal Expert

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

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