Zoning laws serve an important function in our cities. But sometimes they can be extremely inconvenient for a business owner who wants to use their land for a particular purpose that’s not allowed by their city’s zoning code. Luckily, there is a process that allows someone to request exceptions – called variances – to those laws.
How do I get a zoning variance?
The first step in the process would be to submit a request for a variance to the Boston zoning board (or the zoning board of your city). Each city may have different requirements for what this request must include. Consulting an attorney when preparing this request can be helpful in order to ensure that you aren’t leaving anything out that will get your request rejected – and delay the process.
Using Boston’s variance requirements as an example, the request must include:
- An explanation of how your land has special conditions that only apply to it, and not to surrounding land, that requires a variance
- An explanation of why the application of the zoning code in your case would result in undue hardship
- An explanation of how granting you a variance would not adversely affect the public, and won’t substantially ruin the purpose of the zoning code
What if the zoning law changed after I bought the property?
Sometimes a company will buy a plot of land and build a structure on it, only for the zoning board to change the zoning of the area afterward. If the use of your land used to conform to the zoning code, but doesn’t anymore, you can qualify for a nonconforming use exception.
Once again using Boston as an example, there are certain requirements for you to main that nonconforming use exception. For example, there are limits to how you can expand and enlarge a nonconforming building in Boston.
Before you plan a renovation project, make sure your attorney reviews your plans to ensure that you won’t lose your exception by violating your city’s zoning code rules for nonconforming uses. Getting it right the first time can save you lots of time, money and headaches.