When the County denies issuance of a permit on the grounds that the application does not conform to the zoning regulations contained in Chapter 405 of the Unified Development Ordinance, the applicant may appeal specific zoning requirements if compliance would cause exceptional hardship for use of the property. Appeals must be made within 45 days of the denial. Appeals are heard and decided upon by the Board of Zoning Adjustment, a quasi-judicial body which will hold a formal public hearing after notifying the adjoining property owners. In approving any variance, the Board may impose conditions to reduce negative impacts caused for the use of nearby properties.

Additionally, any decision of the Director of the Division of Planning and Zoning may be appealed by an affected property owner, tenant, or public official who believe that the Director’s decision has caused a permit to have been incorrectly issued or denied. Typically, this would be on the grounds that the zoning regulations have been misinterpreted.

Zoning Variance Criteria
By County ordinance, the Board may only grant the requested variance if:

  • A hardship is caused by factors inherent to the lot or parcel, such as exceptional narrowness, shallowness, shape, topography (for example flood zones and steep slopes), or existing buildings;
  • The requested variance would not allow a use to be placed in a district in which it is not permitted in Chapter 405 or Chapter 410 of the Unified Development Ordinance, or allow other types of use variance;
  • The requested variance would not grant a privilege available to one property but not others in the same zoning district; and
  • The requested variance would not be a substantial detriment to the public good, or undermine the integrity of the zoning regulations.

The Board of Zoning Adjustment may not decide an appeal from a legislative action of the County Council.

Zoning Variance Process
The steps for approval of a variance to the zoning regulations include:

  • Applicant consults with Planning & Zoning Division staff. (Strongly recommended)
  • Complete application submitted about a month before the public hearing. 
  • County staff processes application. This includes notifying the owners of adjoining properties, posting a sign on the property, and notifying pertinent public agencies.
  • Board of Zoning Adjustment conducts public hearing and votes to approve, approve with conditions, or deny the application. The Commission meets the first Thursday of each month.

How Do I Apply?
There are two ways to apply:

Complete variance applications must include:

  • Payment of the fee specified in Section 425.020.C of the Unified Development Ordinance;
  • A statement of hardship showing that the hardship is based on factors inherent to the land or property;
  • A plot plan showing property boundaries and roads, existing and proposed buildings, proposed setbacks of structures, and any other pertinent features such as topography and flood zones; and
  • A legal description of the property.