Zoning Variance Standards

The burden of proving the need for a variance is on the applicant. In order to prepare for a hearing before the Building and Zoning Board of Appeals, applicants should consider the following standards for zoning variances.

Standards for Area Variances

Granting of a nonuse variance (area, size, setback, etc.) requires the existence of a practical difficulty. The factors (Duncan v. Middlefield (1986), 23 Ohio St.3d 83) to be considered and weighed in determining whether a property owner seeking an area variance has encountered practical difficulties in the use of his property include:

  • Can the property yield a reasonable return or can there be any beneficial use of the property without the variance?
  • Is the variance is substantial?
  • Will the essential character of the neighborhood be substantially altered or will adjoining properties suffer a substantial detriment as a result of the variance?
  • Will the variance adversely affect the delivery of governmental services (e.g. water, sewer, garbage)?
  • Did the property owner purchase the property with knowledge of the zoning restriction?
  • Can the property owner’s predicament be precluded through some method other than a variance?
  • Would the spirit and intent behind the zoning requirement be observed and substantial justice done by granting the variance?
 Standards for Use Variances

A use variance allows a use of land that is not permitted in the district in which the property is located. Because this type of relief is so significant, granting of a use variance requires the existence of an unnecessary hardship. The factors to be considered and weighed in determining whether a property owner seeking a use variance has encountered unnecessary hardship in the use of his property include:

  • The property could not be used (be put to a reasonable use) for the purposes permitted in that zone district.
  • The plight is due to unique circumstances peculiar to the property and not to general neighborhood conditions.
  • The use would not alter the essential character of the area or adjoining properties would not suffer a substantial detriment as a result of the variance.
  • The problem is not self-created.
  • The variance would not adversely affect the delivery of governmental services, for example water, sewer, garbage.
  • The applicant purchased the property without knowledge of the zoning restriction.
  • The applicant’s predicament feasibly cannot be resolved through some method other than a variance.
  • The spirit and intent behind the zoning requirement would be observed and substantial justice done by granting the variance.
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