The Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) is authorized to waive strict application of any part of the Zoning Regulations where, due to an exceptional situation, adherence to the language of the Zoning Regulations results in “exceptional practical difficulties or exceptional and undue hardship” upon a property owner.

In most cases, difficulty or hardship results from physical characteristics that make the property unique or difficult to use.

While the Applicant has the burden of proof, the BZA must determine that granting the request would not cause substantial detriment to the public good and would not be inconsistent with the general intent and purpose of the Zoning Regulations. 

Only the owner of the property for which a variance is sought, or an agent authorized by the property owner, may apply for variance relief.


Types of Variances

Variances are classified as either area variances or use variances.

An area variance is a request to deviate from an area requirement applicable to the zone district in which the property is located. Examples of area variances are requests to deviate from:

  • Minimum parking or loading requirements to an extent greater than what may be permitted by special exception;
  • Limitations on the extent to which the gross floor area of a building may be occupied by a matter of right non-residential use;
  • Limitations on the alteration or conversion of certain structures on alley lots;
  • The prohibition against certain enlargements and additions to nonconforming structures as stated at Subtitle C § 302.2; and
  • Preconditions to the establishment of a matter-of-right use including, but not limited to, the minimum land area requirement of Subtitle E § 600.3 applicable to the conversion of a building to an apartment house as permitted by Subtitle E § 600.1; provided, that the waiver would not cause the proposed use to meet the definition of a more intense use.

A use variance is a request to permit:

  • A use that is not permitted matter of right or special exception in the zone district where the property is located;
  • A use that is expressly prohibited in the zone district where the property is located; or
  • An expansion of a nonconforming use prohibited by Subtitle C § 304.1.

For more information on the following topics, please see the corresponding referenced sections:


If you are ready to fill out an application for a variance, please visit visit the Interactive Zoning Information System.