What Is a Variance?

A variance is a relaxation of the zoning ordinance standards relating to the required dimensions, distances to property lines or characteristics of land and structures, including the size, area, bulk or location of buildings or structures. There are instances where a property may qualify for the granting of a variance by the Board of Zoning Appeals. However, the circumstances under Virginia law for the granting of variances by the Board are very specific.

To be granted a variance by the Board the applicant must meet all the following requirements:

  • That the property was acquired by the applicant in good faith
  • That due to the particular physical surroundings, size, shape, topographical condition or other extraordinary situation or condition of the specific property involved or of the condition, situation or development of property immediately adjacent thereto, the strict application of the terms of this ordinance would effectively prohibit or unreasonably restrict the utilization of the property; or where the strict application of the terms of this ordinance would constitute a clearly demonstrable hardship, as distinguished from a special privilege or mere inconvenience
  • That the strict application of the ordinance would produce undue hardship. Economic hardship alone cannot be the grounds for the granting of a variance
  • That such hardship is not shared generally by other properties in the same zoning district and the same vicinity
  • That the authorization of such variance will not be of substantial detriment to adjacent property and that the character of the zoning district will not be changed by the granting of the variance
  • That the condition or situation of the property concerned is not of so general or recurring a nature as to make reasonably practicable the formulation of a general regulation to be adopted as an amendment to this ordinance