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Business: A variance can allow exceptions to existing zoning laws

On Behalf of | Apr 26, 2024 | Real Estate & Development

Imagine buying a raw, undeveloped piece of land, the perfect spot for your future business. It’s an exciting thought, right? Yet, in Arizona and many states, zoning laws can throw a wrench in the works. These laws determine how you can use the land. For example, if land is zoned for residential use only, you can’t build a commercial space on it.

Rezoning is an option, but it often means a long, costly and uncertain process. But, there’s a lesser-known alternative you might consider: a variance.

A variance, within the context of zoning laws, is essentially a formal request for an exception to the rules. It’s like telling the city or county, “I understand what the rules are, but here’s why I believe my case is unique and should be treated differently.”

Types of zoning variances in Arizona

Arizona recognizes two main types of variances:

  1. Area variances: These are the more common of the two. They apply when you seek to use your property in a way that’s consistent with the current zoning but need to bend the rules slightly. For example, you might request an area variance to build a structure slightly taller than the zoning rules allow.
  2. Use variances: These are more significant. They apply when you want to use your property in a way not currently allowed by the zoning. For example, a use variance could be your solution if you’re going to run a small business on property zoned for residential use.

Sometimes, what you aspire to build on a piece of land doesn’t align with the local government’s plans. That’s ok; it happens. In these situations, area variances might be your best bet if you plan to change the property’s use. Alternatively, use variances could be the solution if you aim for a physical change on the property.

Requesting a zoning variance

Applying for a variance requires a deep understanding of local zoning laws and a persuasive case for why the local community should make an exception for you. This is where an attorney can be beneficial.

An attorney can help prepare your application and present your case in the best light. They can also help you demonstrate that rigid zoning codes would create a significant disadvantage or substantial burden for you.