Board of Zoning Appeals

Zoning and the Enforcement of Land-Use Regulations

Zoning and the enforcement of land-use regulations includes providing staff services to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), the Planning Commission, and the Board of Control, and assisting citizens in their dealings with these appointed bodies. Additionally, department staff handle requests for permits for a variety of items, including fences and home day care operations.  Cases heard before the Board of Zoning Appeals can be found on the BZA Cases Page where you will also find agendas, minutes and actions from specific  meeting dates of the current year. For older agendas, minutes or action  please visit the Archived Agendas and Minutes page.

The BZA handles requests for variances and hears appeals of decisions  made by certain city officials. The Planning Commission grants conditional use permits and resubdivision approvals, and makes recommendations to City Council on various topics including amendments to the zoning map or zoning code and on general planning-related issues. The Board of Control is charged with overseeing development in S-1  mixed-use zoning districts (currently, the only S-1 district in the city is centered around Severance Town Center).


Variances are required when a property owner would like to use their  property in a manner not fully consistent with the regulations set out in the zoning code. There are two kinds of variances, variances from  standards, or standard variances, and use variances.

Requests for standard variances are what the BZA deals with most  frequently. A standard variance is needed when a property owner cannot,  due to unusual or unique circumstances on their property, satisfy the  standards of the zoning code in terms of height, area, or distance.  Before granting a standard variance, the board must find that not  granting one would result in a ’practical difficulty’ for the property  owner. In order to determine whether a practical difficulty exists, the  Board must consider specific factors that are set out in the zoning  code. To this end, a property owner requesting a variance must, as part  of the application process, prepare a written statement of practical  difficulty. Guidance on the preparation of the statement is found in the Standard Variance Application.

Use variances are required when a property owner seeks to use their  property for an activity that is not permitted by the zoning code. Requests for use variances are far less common than requests for  standard variances, partly because they are more difficult to justify. Before granting a use variance, the BZA must establish that not granting the variance would result in an ’unnecessary hardship’ for the property owner. The requirements for establishing that an unnecessary hardship  exists are explicitly set out in the zoning code and can be found in the Use Variance Application. A use variance approved by the BZA is granted and has effect only following approval by City Council.