Provide letter language as suggestions. 90 : 122) >= (c = c.charCodeAt(0) + 13) ? Observe how applicants present their requests and look for any correlation to the decisions that are reached. 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, 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. Look around you If you see your neighbors, try to find out if they are opposed and if so, why? Fire up your strategy, perform reconnaissance work and organize a good pre-game, so to speak. But theres a mother-of-all-tips kind of tip that precedes the ones that follow below. 90 : 122) >= (c = c.charCodeAt(0) + 13) ? And hardship in a zoning sense does not nearly belong in any domain where empathy or sympathy would bear influence. Normally, the requests go first to a zoning board. Model your wardrobe choices on what you see at the prior hearing. Review with the ZEO. The standard of approval for a dimensional variance is practical difficulty, which the courts have defined to mean that strict compliance is unnecessarily burdensome and granting the variance would do substantial justice to the owner. The undue hardship standard for a use variance is much more difficult to meet . Show some logic that does not go to the obvious no-nos like financial impact, decreased land value, mother-in-law needs a place to live, etc. A variance is a request to deviate from current zoning requirements. TIP #1 Before filing variance Do you really need one? Frequently, applicants attempt to appeal to the zoning hearing board with references to increasing the tax base or enhancements that will increase the value of everyones property. Not only are these valuation projections speculative, they are also irrelevant to the standards to be applied by the zoning hearing board. Try to summarize your application to the Board, they have read your petition prior to the meeting. That such unnecessary hardship has not been created by the appellant. Do it before you wrap your presentation, so that your gratitude is expressed whether or not they act in your favor. Air District staff may present information pertinent to the case and may suggest certain limiting conditions. Whether these emissions would cause odor or other nuisances in the community, threats to public health, or damage to property. Put simply, hardship is an objective, fact based condition arising naturally from a feature thats unique to your property and creates an insurmountable obstacle that prevents you from meeting the part of the regulation that you seek a waiver from. TIP #7 During your variance presentation: TIP #8 If you are requesting a sign variance: TIP #9 If you are requesting a dimensional/property variance: TIP #10 Variance granted What else to do? Usually, the land owner seeking the variance files a request or written application for a variance and pays a fee. Note the manner in which people address the Board. During the period the variance is in effect, that the . Respect is also shown by being on time, by addressing the Board with a tone of deference, and generally by checking any bit of potentially bad behavior at the door. Would the granting of the variance result in a development that would be desirable for the appropriate development or use of the applicants land or building? If granted, it permits the owner to use the land in a manner not otherwise permitted by the zoning ordinance. But thats the key here, really. There are limited instances when a lessee can seek a variance, but this is rare. Compliance Assistance. the practical closing and elimination of a lawful business. Typically, there is a stenographic record of the proceedings being made, and objectors should remember that the testimony and evidence they present at the hearing is every bit as important as the information presented by the applicant. Normally, the requests go first to a zoning board. Any member of the Hearing Board may review and grant an emergency variance without public notice or a hearing. You should also bring copies of your current Permits to Operate with you. The zoning hearing board solicitor will use excerpts of that record to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law in support of the boards decision. That said, I speculate that many waivers granted in any given year by any given ZBA are granted in the absence of an authentic hardship. Get a deeper dive into hardship here. Powered by muniCMS. Usually, the land owner seeking the variance files a request or written application for a variance and pays a fee. The materials at this website have been prepared by The Lynch Law Group, LLC for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. An attempt is made to determine why and how the rule is being violated, whether the violation could have been prevented, what is being done to correct the violation, when correction will be completed, what will happen to the business if must shut down, and how the violation affects the public. If the application is approved over objection, the objector may elect to appeal, and will want the record to be as favorable as possible to their position. They should be additionally aware of what they will be required to demonstrate in order to successfully obtain the variance from their municipalitys zoning hearing board. So with that said, I have 7 tips to offer for anyone who is going for a zoning variance: Present a (real) hardship. Photographers Rights or Transformative Art? This is not unusual in the case of zoning variances, where they are granted (sometimes) quite liberally. If thats you, then these tips are for you. If you feel it genuinely, it should come off as natural and authentic and you should be fine. If theres no opposition (and if the request is relatively modest and benign) then the waiver may actually be granted despite there being no valid hardshipif the approach is careful. You want to be assertive, not aggressive; formidable, not adversarial. A variance is like a permitted exception to the general rules set forth in the zoning law. 2022 Most Cited Workplace Safety Standards. Owners may either do this on their own or with the assistance of legal counsel. In the same way that an applicant must show how they can meet the criteria under the MPC to obtain a variance, an objector should focus on these same five items and attempt to demonstrate how the application falls short of meeting one or more of the requirements. That the applicant for the variance has given consideration to curtailing operations of the source in lieu of obtaining a variance. To get the desired exception (variance), the applicant applies to the zoning board of appeals. With spring and summer construction season around the corner, property owners planning for new construction or alterations should evaluate whether they will need to seek a variance from the restrictions of local ordinances in order to complete their projects as desired. An applicant should next consider whether they are seeking a use variance or a dimensional variance. Be Prepared. In conclusion, theres really nothing earth-shattering in these tips. Whatever the type of variance being sought, the MPC states that a zoning hearing board may grant a request for variance provided that all of the following findings are made where relevant in a given case. If you have sought the help of technical experts to resolve your problem, they should accompany you to the hearing. I dont mean briberyjust some good-natured quid pro quo. The influence of a good natured, positive and respectful manner that you bring to your hearing may help the people on the Board to see things your way. c : c - 26); })); SUBSCRIBE to email newsletters for Air District info, Copyright 2021 Bay Area Air Quality Management District, A Healthy Breathing Environment For Every Bay Area Resident, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Clerk of the Boards, Executive & Administrative Resources. Be concise and to the point; the Board has read your petition, examined your documents and probably inspected the property or variance site. An example would be a weird triangle shaped lot that you see illustrated on this page. Be Prepared. Look, see & observe if similar variances have been granted, Understand what the legal test is for board relief, 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, 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, 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, Stop and examine the agenda: If there are similar cases to yours, listen to how the Board responds to those cases. The Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Code (MPC) requires that an applicant for a variance be the legal or equitable owner of the property. and provide something that Board members can sign on to without appearing to be in dereliction of their duty. I submit to you that if it is given a proper, objective evaluation, a request for a zoning variance or waiver would very rarely conclude in favor of the applicant. An emergency variance can only be granted for a period up to 30 days. Whether the reduction in air pollution resulting from a shutdown would justify closing the facility. Selected by the Pittsburgh Business Times as one of the region's Fastest Growing Companies in 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 and as one of Pittsburgh's Best Places to Work in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2019. 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 Many applicants fail to appreciate the nuances of these requirements. Board members are not stewards of the overall financial wellbeing of the municipalities in which they serve, and are not tasked with weighing the taxation or property valuation implications of the proposed construction or development for which a variance is requested. To be sure, a variance is not a free pass from regulations or a tool to subvert the zoning ordinances. An objector may want to consider enlisting the help of legal counsel in order to present cogent factual and legal arguments in hopes of preventing approval of a problematic variance request. Ultimately, bring any exhibits that will establish the context of what youre proposing, illustrate the extent of your proposed activities and show relationship of your property and project site to abutting neighbors. You may even want to have a companion perform a devils advocate role in a mock hearing with you, just to help you get in the proper frame of mind for answering questions. Site development by Muniweb. According to sound theory, zoning variances should be granted only when a property owner would have a unique and unusual hardship, created by the physical characteristics of the land, if the ordinance is strictly and literally applied in their case. This means that the owner must file the application for the zoning variance and must appear at the public hearing to address the application. This bodes well for applicants, but dont get too excited its not to say waivers are handed out like candy. required. Ask for neighbors to appear in person to speak in favor of your application, or to write a letter if they cannot attend in person. In other words, people sometimes bring preconception and prejudice into their deliberations and behave counter to their charge. How do you win a variance hearing? There are a number of important considerations for any person or business seeking a zoning variance. Rather, they must show that this unnecessary hardship has not been created by the applicant themselves, that it flows from some condition unique to the subject property, and that it does not result merely from the application of the provisions of the controlling ordinance. Often, construction contractors offer to handle any zoning or permitting issues for a client as part of their pitch to get the contract. Home News Zoning Variances: What a Landowner Must Prove to Obtain a Variance. Most people are more familiar with the concept of dimensional variances through common residential and commercial requests, such as a homeowner seeking to build a shed in the required rear-yard setback for a residential district or a business attempting to display a larger sign than the one permitted by a zoning ordinance. James P. McGraw represents clients in land use, zoning, and related real estate development matters. Short If compliance with the District regulation(s) can be achieved within 90 days or less, request a short-term variance. The more pointed and aggravating the mock questions are, the better prepared you will be for any sticky questions in your actual hearing, so enlist a companion who will not hold back! That the closing or taking would be without a corresponding benefit in reducing air contaminants. Create exhibits. Create exhibits like plans and photos and the like and share them with neighbors (loop this tip in with #3 as necessary) Integrate the exhibits with your argument and bring them to the Hearing. 501 Smith Drive, Suite 3 Cranberry Twp., PA 16066, 375 Southpointe Blvd., Suite 100 Canonsburg, PA 15317, The Lynch Law Group LLC Attorneys in Cranberry Twp and Pittsburgh | (724) 776-8000. In other words, an argument of I need a variance because your ordinance is stopping me from doing what I want to do is likely to fall on deaf ears before a zoning hearing board. Whether conditions causing the violation were beyond your reasonable control. 3. Good luck to you in your preparation and your application! You may wish to retain an attorney to present your case. Both sides present evidence through witnesses who are placed under oath. Practice your argument. If you plan to represent yourself, be sure to prepare for the hearing. Form alliances upfront and do any "horse trading" before the hearing. The Air District continues to take steps to ensure air quality and public health are protected while the Bay Area adjusts to the latest phases of the COVID pandemic. Per tips #2 & #3 above, you want to strike an open, transparent and respectful tone with the ZEO at your very first introduction and carry that all the way through your application experience. Copyright 2022, City of Novi. TIP #2 - Before filing variance Do your homework, TIP #3 When you file your variance petition, TIP #4 After filing, but before the Hearing, TIP #5 After filing, but before the Hearing, TIP #6 At the variance Hearing: Stop, look and listen. The hearing room is equipped with a projector that can display photographs, architectural plans or other drawings and images. A good way to begin the process is to circulate a petition against the zoning variance request around the neighborhood, obtain signatures, addresses and telephone numbers, and send the signed document to the entity hearing the variance request to be placed in the administrative record before the local zoning board or c : c - 26); })); 415.749.5073 2. Usually, the land owner seeking the variance files a request or written application for a variance and pays a fee. The zoning examiner may then hold a hearing to determine if the variance should be granted. Obviously, this is quite literally the number one tip for winning a variance. Whether shutting down your equipment or business would be reasonable under the circumstances. This article offers a detailed guide to zoning variances and the many reasons why you might want to apply for one. Zoning Variances: What a Landowner Must Prove to Obtain a Variance, Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Code (MPC). Read more | en Espaol, The Air District is taking steps to ensure Bay Area air quality and public health are protected during the COVID pandemic. Establishing each of the above criteria at a zoning hearing presents unique challenges, and an applicant has the burden of demonstrating that all five requirements have been . Attend a public hearing leading up to your own, to get the gist of what its like and to get a feel for the room and the degree of formality. Would you like more coaching on what a hardship is? This is not unusual in the case of zoning variances, where they are granted (sometimes) quite liberally. If you believe that the variance should not be permitted, and that it would adversely affect your property or neighborhood, you should plan to appear at the hearing and formally object to your neighbors application. Local professionals have often appeared numerous times before the Board and will have a keen grasp of the regulation. Let me elaborate. When you appear before the Board to present your case, be authentically grateful and express that gratitude. The entire process typically takes 45 to 50 days to complete. Whats the problem? It is important to keep in mind that objecting to a request for a variance means more than simply airing a complaint or concern. And these tips are the care that I have known to win variances where technically no real hardship was present. The inspector will most likely look up your setback limits for your property amongst other things and let you know if your project is possible. Establishing each of the above criteria at a zoning hearing presents unique challenges, and an applicant has the burden of demonstrating that all five requirements have been met. Do you really need a variance or just want one? But as mentioned above, a hardship is a very narrowly defined thing. It is not a change in the zoning law. Mount your larger graphic on a stiff backing (like foam core) for easy propping on an easel (if one is at the hearing if not use a vacant chair or bring a companion to hold it up for you). Review your application and what you are wanting to do with the ZEObeforehand, if possible, to learn any glaring glitches or omissions or experience with similar applications of other variance seekers who came before you with the same nature of hardship or request. The zoning examiner may then hold a hearing to determine if the variance should be granted. Designed by Elegant Themes | Powered by WordPress, 7 Tips for Winning a Variance at the Zoning Board of Appeals, What Contour Lines Mean and How to Interpret Them. Steps 1 Examine your construction plans, and determine if there is any way they can be revised so that a variance is not necessary. Understand the overall process for a waiver and have a grasp on where everyone fits in to that process. c : c - 26); })); Compliance & Enforcement 415.749.4999 While it's difficult to obtain an area or use variance, there are situations that may allow your application to be granted. Whether conditions causing the violation were beyond your reasonable control. However, some variances can be limited for 5 or 10 years, and when they expire, the new owner would have to obtain a new variance. Variance hearings are similar to courtroom proceedings. How do you win a variance hearing? Present or future violation of Air District regulations. Fire up your strategy, perform reconnaissance work and organize a good pre-game, so to speak. SECURE Act 2.0: How It Could Affect Your Retirement Plans, LLG Attorneys Named to Best Lawyers and Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch. Review with the ZEO. If you receive such a notice, you should carefully review the proposed change in use, or the developmental variance requested. This can be enormously helpful to understanding what youre up against, and to avoid any last minute corrections that could leave you off the agenda of the hearing date you are targeting. Before I get to the tips, I need to first say that what follows is meant for DIYers. The variance device is intended to avoid an unfair and unjust application of the zoning ordinance in unique situations. So with that said, I have 7 tips to offer for anyone who is going for a zoning variance: Obviously, this is quite literally the number one tip for winning a variance. Consider the phenomena of jury nullification, for instance, where a group of people will sidestep its duty because it believes the underlying law or charges are flawed. Can you enlist their support because they didnt understand what you are trying to do? Though not required, persons requesting a variance are usually represented by an attorney. a good way to begin the process is to circulate a petition against the zoning variance request around the neighborhood, obtain signatures, addresses and telephone numbers, and send the signed document to the entity hearing the variance request to be placed in the administrative record before the local zoning board or city council holds the public Notably absent from the above list of criteria for a zoning variance is any mention of real or perceived financial benefit for the municipality, adjacent landowners, or taxpayers at large. Or just casual clothing? Be respectful. Try to avoid taking an all or nothing position. Be Respectful. All hearing exhibitsdocuments, site plans, photographs or evidence of any kindmust be submitted in Word or PDF format at least two business days in advance of the hearing to the Office of Administrative Hearings at In order to obtain a variance, the applicant bears the burden of providing competent, substantial and relevant evidence to convince the decision-making board that the property meets all of the statutory standards for a variance. Generally speaking, when it comes to zoning regulations, a waiver cannot technically be granted without the presence of a hardship. Practice your argument so you can deliver it with humble confidence, and without ego or any air of entitlement. Whether you will reduce emissions to the maximum extent possible. That, because of such physical circumstances or conditions, there is no possibility that the property can be developed in strict conformity with the provisions of the zoning ordinance and that the authorization of a variance is, therefore, necessary to enable the reasonable use of the property. That is the advice to hire a zoning attorney or architect or land use engineer to handle the application and the presentation. You may even go so far as to thank the Commissioners for their service to you and the community. The zoning examiner may then hold a hearing to determine if the variance should be granted. At a variance hearing, the Hearing Board will consider the following points: Present or future violation of Air District regulations. Be yourself when you get up to speak whether that means speaking extemporaneously or by reading a pre-prepared statement verbatim. That the variance, if authorized, will represent the minimum variance that will afford relief and will represent the least modification possible of the regulation in issue. Online Registration/Registration Information, National Citizens Survey Results (Citizen Perception Survey), Sidewalk and Pathway Maintenance Responsibilities, Master Plan for Land Use Steering Committee, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Commission, Elements of Unnecessary Hardship and Practical Difficulty, Information / Requirements Sheets, Checklists, Manuals and Publications. All Rights Reserved. Your status as an objector is of legal significance, and conveys standing to you and other objectors to appeal the decision of the zoning hearing board if you are dissatisfied with the outcome. Read more | en Espaol, Boiler Stipulated Order of Abatement Program. Be Respectful. To the Board, to your neighbors (those who are either for OR against your application), to the ZEO (Zoning Enforcement Officer), to the audience at the hearing and above all be respectful to the responsibility of the Board by understanding what exactly its duty is. If you are hard pressed to identify a real hardship, but you have a strong will and a dire need to alter your house a certain way despite the lack of a true hardship, and you are insistent on trying to win one, then my first advice is to be very thoughtful with your interpretation of that very narrowly defined term. Most of them are based on principles that we all learn in grade school as we become socialized among other people. Speaking of target dates, hearings sometimes fill up and you may find that an opening is not available for some months, so keep that in mind during your planning. Normally, the requests go first to a zoning board. Should you dye your hair if you have dandruff. If you share these exhibits with your neighbors before the hearing and if the ones who cannot attend the hearing can reference the exhibits in their letters, that will give an added boost to your application. Likewise, if a property owner receives notice that the owner of a nearby parcel is seeking a variance, they should evaluate the proposed changes to the character or use of the property, and should be prepared to attend a hearing and formally object to the application if they do not believe that the variance should be granted. Witnesses may be cross-examined by the opposing side and questioned by Hearing Board members. A dimensional variance is for a use which is . If you can modify your plans so that they conform to the local zoning ordinances, you will save yourself the hassle of applying for a variance. document.write("".replace(/[a-zA-Z]/g,function (c) { return String.fromCharCode((c <= "Z" ? These proceedings can be stressful, especially because of the additional cost and delay to the project. A use variance, on the other hand, involves a request by an owner to use the subject property in a way that is not permitted in the zoning district in which the property is situated. In any event, write down the key components of your argument and study them so that you are assured not to forget anything when you are before the Board and so you are comfortable and confident in your delivery. The zoning board notifies nearby and adjacent property owners. Should you wear business attire? Based on years of experience working with Zoning Boards of Appeal (ZBA), we offer the following advice: Know the difference between a dimensional variance and a use variance. More likely than not, the ZEO will assist you in filling out the application and helping you to make sure all the requirements of the process have been met. At a variance hearing, the Hearing Board will consider the following points: Marcy Hiratzka In general, it can be more difficult to obtain a use variance than a dimensional variance, as courts regard use variances as a complete deviation from the strictures of an ordinance. Neighbors whose homes or businesses are in the immediate vicinity of the subject property will receive notice that a variance has been requested, and that a hearing has been scheduled before the zoning hearing board. 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