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Tips for a Successful Variance

TIP #1 – Before filing variance – Do you really need one?

  • Understand why your permit was rejected
  • Can you live within the Ordinance?
  • Do you really “need” a variance – or just want one?

TIP #2 - Before filing variance – Do your homework

  • Talk to the Building Department
  • Talk to your neighbors
  • Look, see & observe if similar variances have been granted
  • Understand what the legal test is for board relief

TIP #3 – When you file your variance petition

  • Write neatly and legibly/type your application
  • State specifically why you need the variance, what your hardship is and why the Ordinance, which caused your denial unfairly affects you
  • Attach all relevant documents to your application
  • Avoid, if possible, submitting new documentation to the Board during the Hearing
  • If you cannot submit complex documentation until the hearing itself, consider an postponement until the next scheduled meeting

TIP #4 – After filing, but before the Hearing

  • The Board will probably inspect the site before the Hearing
  • “Clean up” the property/site before inspection
  • Talk to your neighbors about your variance/get their support
  • If you get neighbor support, have them make a brief, concise statement at the Hearing

TIP #5 – After filing, but before the Hearing

  • If you expect opposition, examine the City Building file a day or two before the Hearing; any written opposition will be on file
  • Be prepared to deal with written objections at the Hearing
  • Consider modifying your variance request to meet objections
  • Keep in mind the Board may grant less of a variance request but not more

TIP #6 – At the variance Hearing: Stop, look and listen

  • Stop and examine the agenda: If there are similar cases to yours, listen to how the Board responds to those cases
  • Look around you – If you see your neighbors, try to find out if they are opposed and if so, why? Can you enlist their support because they didn’t understand what you are trying to do?
  • Listen to the Board; both their questions and discussion may be an attempt to steer you to a compromise. Try to avoid taking an all or nothing position.

TIP #7 – During your variance presentation:

  • Be concise and to the point; the Board has read your petition, examined your documents and probably inspected the property or variance site
  • Please remember courtesy and civility are more readily received than disrespect and negativity.
  • Try to summarize your application to the Board, they have read your petition prior to the meeting.

TIP #8 – If you are requesting a sign variance:

  • Be sure you have genuine “need” and this is not just a marketing ploy
  • Always have a mock-up or rendering of the proposed sign on site, ready for Board inspection
  • If the variance relates to “size” be prepared to be flexible
  • If the variance relates to “number of signs” be prepared to explain why they are needed and what the hardship is

TIP #9 – If you are requesting a dimensional/property variance:

  • Demonstrate why the hardship is unique to your situation because of land shape/size/topography
  • Convincingly communicate that the hardship was not self-created
  • Point out that the variance is the bare minimum needed to correct the problem
  • Suggest that the variance will not negatively impact any neighbor, nor will it alter the essential character of the land

TIP #10 – Variance granted – What else to do?

  • Pull necessary permits
  • Make sure you comply with the variance