The Township Zoning Ordinance includes certain minimum standards for the size and placement of buildings on lots in the Township. There are different standards for the various commercial, office, industrial, agricultural, and residential zoning districts. The Board of Appeals can grant special permission, or a "variance," to build on land in a way that does not meet the "dimensional" or measurable standards in the Ordinance, such as lot size, setbacks, or building height.
One example is a property owner who wants to build a new room onto their house and the proposed addition does not comply with a setback requirement. This means that some portion of the addition would be placed closer to a property line than is allowed in the Ordinance. For the addition to be constructed as proposed, the property owner will need to apply to the Board of Appeals and request a variance from the setback requirement.
Board of Appeals
The Board of Appeals will consider a request for a variance very carefully. Ordinances are written to make sure that buildings are placed a safe distance from the street and one another and constructed of a size that assures a reasonable amount of open front, side, and rear yard areas. The Board of Appeals will want to understand the practical difficulty that you have in complying with the Ordinance requirement. Such difficulties might include an odd-shaped lot, natural features such as water or steep slopes, or the location of structures built under earlier regulations. The Board of Appeals will expect that the difficulties are unique to the property and that granting the variance will not change the character of the area.
The Board of Appeals will want to know that the variance request is the minimum amount necessary to accomplish the project. The Board of Appeals will review your request to see if there are alternatives that would allow you to complete your project without needing a variance. More information is available on the Board of Appeals in our Committee/Commission section.
Before You Begin a Project
There are steps that you can take to avoid the time and cost associated with unnecessary variance applications.
First, call the Planning Department before you begin to design a project to learn about the standards that might apply. Remember that the rules can vary depending upon whether you are building a new home, an addition, a deck, a covered porch, a pole barn, etc. The more information you can provide about the type of project you are considering, the better the Department will be able to answer your questions.
It can also help to have information about the size and dimensions of the lot and any buildings that might already exist on the lot. Having complete information about the standards that apply can help you to design a project that might not require a variance.
If you find that a variance cannot be avoided, you will need to budget both time and money to complete the process. Applicants for a variance must pay a fee to cover the cost to process the application (PDF). The Planning Department Fee Schedule (PDF) provides more information. Also, drawings must be submitted with an application to show the proposed project; it may be necessary to hire a surveyor to complete the drawing.
Regular meetings of the Board of Appeals are held on the third Wednesday of every month. Complete applications must be submitted at least four weeks prior to the meeting to be placed on the agenda. This lead time is necessary to assure that the application can be processed, reports written, and notices sent to all persons who own property within 300 feet of the property subject to the application.
The Board of Appeals application form (PDF) describes all of the items that must be submitted with your request for variance and the application deadlines.