Considering Legal Help in Applying for a Property 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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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.

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