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Frequently Asked Questions: Zoning & Land Use

What is a Variance?

A Variance is a form of relief, also granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals of the city or town, whereby a provision of the Zoning By-Law or Ordinance is waived.  The Zoning Board must find that due to the shape, soil conditions or topography of the lot or the arrangement of buildings or other uses which are on the land, that there would be a hardship to the applicant, which can be cured without harm to the public in general or neighbors.  As an example, a person might have an oddly shaped lot that was big enough to build a house on, but because it was narrow where it connected with the roadway, it did not have enough lot width.  The Zoning Board of Appeals could grant a variance to allow this lot to be built upon.  As another example, there might be a large outcropping of rock on a lot which means that the only place a house could be located on the lot would violate a side yard or rear yard setback.  Again, the Zoning Board of Appeals could issue a variance to allow this lot to be built upon.

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