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The Variance – Only God Understands. Variance Definition Created to conform with the 1926 Standard Planning and Zoning Enabling Act Created to conform.

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Presentation on theme: "The Variance – Only God Understands. Variance Definition Created to conform with the 1926 Standard Planning and Zoning Enabling Act Created to conform."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Variance – Only God Understands

2 Variance Definition Created to conform with the 1926 Standard Planning and Zoning Enabling Act Created to conform with the 1926 Standard Planning and Zoning Enabling Act It is “an authorization to depart from the strict terms of the district regulations” It is “an authorization to depart from the strict terms of the district regulations” Originally described as a safety valve Originally described as a safety valve Intended by the framers of zoning to offer relief when the strict application of the district regulations would be unfair Intended by the framers of zoning to offer relief when the strict application of the district regulations would be unfair

3 Variance – Uniform Application? Variance techniques and applications are generally quite uniform throughout the United States and generally in other counties However, most do not follow the rules

4 Two Types of Variances The Use Variance The Use Variance The Area Variance The Area Variance

5 The Use Variance Generally, applicable in only a few Eastern State of the U.S. Generally, applicable in only a few Eastern State of the U.S. The use variance is essentially a “spot zoning” change that allows a use not contemplated by the ordinance in a particular district The use variance is essentially a “spot zoning” change that allows a use not contemplated by the ordinance in a particular district Or, in some states (and jurisdictions) the variance is actually a special use permit and/or an exception Or, in some states (and jurisdictions) the variance is actually a special use permit and/or an exception

6 The Variance (Area Variance) Is a specific instrument that allows a departure from the strict requirements of the area requirements in each zoning district Is a specific instrument that allows a departure from the strict requirements of the area requirements in each zoning district –Reduction in setbacks and yards –Reduction in required minimum lot size –Increase in maximum bulk to lot ratio The BZA normally has a limited power with respect to the variance – such as a 10% reduction or increase The BZA normally has a limited power with respect to the variance – such as a 10% reduction or increase

7 Core Principle The area variance is not intended to grant a benefit to a landowner. It is intended to “equalize” the rights of similarly situated land owners. One owner has less rights The purpose of the variance is to equalize rights The variance is not intended to grant more rights

8 Standards For An Area Variance A.The variance is a discretionary instrument. It is not bound to be issued and is quasi-judicial B.A variance is an “extraordinary instrument” or sometimes called an instrument of last resort. Excessive requests for variances in an indication of poorly designed zoning districts

9 Standard #1 - Listed The variance must be listed in the ordinance and clearly authorized in the zoning district The variance must be listed in the ordinance and clearly authorized in the zoning district “The Board of Zoning Appeals is hereby authorized to issue such variances as may be required to yards, bulk, and front setbacks in the R-1 Zoning District to correct hardships but now more than 20% of the required distance.” “The Board of Zoning Appeals is hereby authorized to issue such variances as may be required to yards, bulk, and front setbacks in the R-1 Zoning District to correct hardships but now more than 20% of the required distance.”

10 Standard #2 - Hardship The variance may only be granted upon the showing of a hardship and the hardship must be corrected by the variance. It must be unique to the subject property The hardship is usually defined as “economic” Real and not anticipated Typically based on a measurable loss In property rights as compared to those similarly situated

11 Hardship Example HARDSHIP UNIQUE Double frontage lot (corner lot with two front setbacks No Hardship Not Unique

12 Standard #3 – Property Values The Issuance of the variance will not diminish the property rights/values of others The Issuance of the variance will not diminish the property rights/values of others Existing houses with proposed new accessory garage with 30% reduction of side yard line

13 Standard #4 – Lawful Situation The variance may not be used to correct and unlawful situation The variance may not be used to correct and unlawful situation Existing Home Existing Accessory Existing buildings already exceed the 35% bulk ratio The building addition was constructed with an invalid permit

14 Additional Example The height of this home exceeded the maximum allowed elevation and height limitation. The owner applied for a variance – it was denied because it cannot be used to correct an unlawful situation The owner had to lower the roof line 2’ He also installed a new type fresh air vent

15 Standard #5 – Spirit of the Ordinance A variance shall not be issued if it is contrary to the spirit of the ordinance A variance shall not be issued if it is contrary to the spirit of the ordinance –Example – Both the community plan and the physical development ordinance make it clear that the existing arterials should be protected from addition curb cuts –A restaurant applies for a conditional use to allow a drive through service window. This would require an additional curb entrance. –Applicant request a variance from the single entrance rule. Entrances, parking areas, and internal roads are a proper subject for a variance SEE EXAMPLE ON FOLLOWING SLIDE

16 Example – Violation of Spirit x

17 The Classic Case – Otto v Steinhilber 1939 Otto has property along an arterial road that has two zoning designation: residential and commercial Otto has property along an arterial road that has two zoning designation: residential and commercial The commercial portion lies along the arterial road to a depth of 150 feet; the remainder is zoned residential The commercial portion lies along the arterial road to a depth of 150 feet; the remainder is zoned residential The only access to the residential portion on Otto’s lot is by crossing the commercial portion of the lot The only access to the residential portion on Otto’s lot is by crossing the commercial portion of the lot Otto wanted to build a larger skating rink – a use that is permitted in the commercial district Otto wanted to build a larger skating rink – a use that is permitted in the commercial district

18 Otto’s Layout Merrick Road 539 feet 237 feet 614’ 495’ Zoned commercial Zoned residential Rink Residential Area

19 The Controversy Everything went fine until Otto announced that the new skating rink would be a building with a front of 240 feet and a length of 434 feet Everything went fine until Otto announced that the new skating rink would be a building with a front of 240 feet and a length of 434 feet About 600 owners protested that it would degrade their property values of the rink was allowed to penetrate into the residence district About 600 owners protested that it would degrade their property values of the rink was allowed to penetrate into the residence district However, the Board granted the variance under the following findings: However, the Board granted the variance under the following findings:

20 The Findings The lot lies within two zoning districts The lot lies within two zoning districts The only means of access to the residential portion is by crossing over the portion in the commercial zone The only means of access to the residential portion is by crossing over the portion in the commercial zone Otto could erect the roller skating rink wholly within the commercial zone, but access to the rear portion would thereby be obstructed Otto could erect the roller skating rink wholly within the commercial zone, but access to the rear portion would thereby be obstructed That if the roller skating rink is restricted to the commercial portion of the land, parking of automobiles of patrons will necessarily have to be in the streets in that vicinity, whereas if the roller skating rink is granted a variance the automobiles could be parked on the sides of the building That if the roller skating rink is restricted to the commercial portion of the land, parking of automobiles of patrons will necessarily have to be in the streets in that vicinity, whereas if the roller skating rink is granted a variance the automobiles could be parked on the sides of the building

21 And One Last Finding In addition thereto, the intervener contends that he could not create a street over the commercial portion of his property outside of that to be occupied by the rink because of the width and grade required for a village street In addition thereto, the intervener contends that he could not create a street over the commercial portion of his property outside of that to be occupied by the rink because of the width and grade required for a village street Therefore, the Board found that Otto Therefore, the Board found that Otto suffered an unnecessary hardship suffered an unnecessary hardship on this property on this property Otto is Happy!

22 The Appeal A coalition of the residents appeal A coalition of the residents appeal The court notes that before the Board can issue a variance, they must find that: The court notes that before the Board can issue a variance, they must find that: –(1) the land in question cannot yield a reasonable return if used only for a purpose allowed in that zone; –(2) that the plight of the owner is due to unique circumstances and not to the general conditions in the neighborhood which may reflect the unreasonableness of the zoning ordinance itself; and – (3) that the use to be authorized by the variance will not alter the essential character of the locality.

23 Hardship – Who Has the Hardship? Where is the hardship? Where is the hardship? Otto has the same commercial rights as all businesses along Merrick Road Otto has the same commercial rights as all businesses along Merrick Road Just because there is lack of access to the residential portion of the tract does not indicate a hardship Just because there is lack of access to the residential portion of the tract does not indicate a hardship Otto fails to show how a small rink, that could be located on the property, would not be profitable Otto fails to show how a small rink, that could be located on the property, would not be profitable Otto created the need for the variance by knowingly purchasing property that was in two zoning districts Otto created the need for the variance by knowingly purchasing property that was in two zoning districts No variance for Otto No variance for Otto

24 Otto – After Learning That He was Not To Receive the Variance

25 VARIANCE City of Merriam v Bd. Of Zoning Appeals

26 Background The BZA of Merriam KS issued a variance to Metroplex for a communications tower The BZA of Merriam KS issued a variance to Metroplex for a communications tower The ordinance allows a communications tower in the Light Industrial district that is no higher than 75 The ordinance allows a communications tower in the Light Industrial district that is no higher than 75 Metroplex applied to erect a 990 ft. tower Metroplex applied to erect a 990 ft. tower Metroplex is a communications company providing cellular, pager and emergency services Metroplex is a communications company providing cellular, pager and emergency services

27 Current Situation Metroplex currently maintains a 300 ft. tower near downtown KC Metroplex currently maintains a 300 ft. tower near downtown KC They claim that this tower is inadequate for increased communications activities They claim that this tower is inadequate for increased communications activities Metroplex enters into a contract to build a $3 office building and the 990 ft. tower Metroplex enters into a contract to build a $3 office building and the 990 ft. tower They apply to the BZA in Merriam They apply to the BZA in Merriam The Merriam BZA allows the variance The Merriam BZA allows the variance

28 The Next Step City of Merriam files suit against their BZA City of Merriam files suit against their BZA Trial court reversed the decision of the BZA Trial court reversed the decision of the BZA –There was no hardship –There was no uniqueness Metroplex and the BZA appeal Metroplex and the BZA appeal

29 Kansas Supreme Court The State did not give the BZA the authority to Spot Zone The State did not give the BZA the authority to Spot Zone The BZA must follow the variance granting procedures to “the letter” The BZA must follow the variance granting procedures to “the letter” Metroplex claims that the site it wished to purchase was unique – but the court said there was nothing unique about the tower – it would just require a large site and there are plenty of those in the area Metroplex claims that the site it wished to purchase was unique – but the court said there was nothing unique about the tower – it would just require a large site and there are plenty of those in the area

30 And Hardship? The Court set three criteria for a hardship The Court set three criteria for a hardship –Proof that it is impossible to use the property for a conforming purpose –Factors sufficient to constitute a hardship that would deprive the owner of his property without just compensation –Factors that constitute an interference with the basic right of property ownership

31 Na Orlens, Sanchez and the Garden District These mansions stand in the center of large grounds and rise, garlanded with roses, out of the midst of swelling masses of shining green foliage and many-colored blossoms. No houses could well be in better harmony with their surroundings, or more pleasing to the eye. -- Mark Twain, speaking of the Garden District. Today, the entire Garden District is on the National Register of Historic Places, offering visitors a veritable banquet of Antebellum, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Victorian architecture intertwined with a glorious, tangled profusion of blooming flowers and lush foliage.

32 Even Mark Twain Though It Was Unique These mansions stand in the center of large grounds and rise, garlanded with roses, out of the midst of swelling masses of shining green foliage and many-colored blossoms. No houses could well be in better harmony with their surroundings, or more pleasing to the eye. -- Mark Twain, speaking of the Garden District.

33 The Big Easy

34 Background Jahncke owns 3 lots Jahncke owns 3 lots He builds a home on lots on two of the lots He builds a home on lots on two of the lots He sells one lot to Sanchez He sells one lot to Sanchez Sanchez cannot obtain a building permit because the lot is smaller than required to construct a residence in this zoning district Sanchez cannot obtain a building permit because the lot is smaller than required to construct a residence in this zoning district Sanchez applies for a variance Sanchez applies for a variance The BZA denies The BZA denies

35 Sanchez v Bd. Of Adjustment of New Orleans Lot 21 Lot 20 Coliseum Street Lot B Jahncke House Lot 19 The Garden District

36 Court Trial Sanchez appeals to district court Sanchez appeals to district court The Garden District intervenes The Garden District intervenes Before the trial the BZA settled and allowed the Sanchezs to build subject to some very strict agreements Before the trial the BZA settled and allowed the Sanchezs to build subject to some very strict agreements The Garden District still insists that the variance should be denied The Garden District still insists that the variance should be denied

37 Decision Trial Court reverses the BZA and grants variance Trial Court reverses the BZA and grants variance Decision notes that the lot should not be totally stripped on its building rights – this constitutes a hardship Decision notes that the lot should not be totally stripped on its building rights – this constitutes a hardship The Garden District Appeals The Garden District Appeals The appellant court reviews The appellant court reviews Garden District says that the trial court did not follow all the criteria for the issuance of a variance Garden District says that the trial court did not follow all the criteria for the issuance of a variance

38 Which Criteria Were Not Followed? Must be unique to the subject property Must be unique to the subject property Special conditions do not results from the actions of the applicant or other person who had an interest in the property Special conditions do not results from the actions of the applicant or other person who had an interest in the property Must not be detrimental to the neighborhood or injurious to property values Must not be detrimental to the neighborhood or injurious to property values Must not impair adequate light and air, cause congestion or over crowding Must not impair adequate light and air, cause congestion or over crowding

39 Appeals Court Decision Sanchez created his own hardship and had constructive knowledge of the zoning restrictions Sanchez created his own hardship and had constructive knowledge of the zoning restrictions He shot himself in the foot He shot himself in the foot He paid his money and he took his chances He paid his money and he took his chances

40 Anthony Sanchez At His Appeal


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