A variance is a relaxation of the zoning requirements for dimensional issues such as setbacks, lot coverage, building height and so forth.  Variances involving uses of land are prohibited both by the municipal code and State law.  Variances are processed through the Planning Department.

The code generally provides for two kinds of variances:

  • Administrative variances apply only to minor dimensional errors.  Administrative variances are governed by AMC 21.15.012. 
  • Variances before the Zoning Board of Examiners and Appeals are governed by AMC 21.15.010.  The Board has much wider jurisdiction than the administrative variance.  These actions involve a public hearing and typically take 3-4 months to resolve.

Structures that have nonconforming (grandfather) rights do not need a variance as long as they are not expanded to increase the nonconformity.

Once granted, variances "run with the land" - that is, they automatically continue in force when the land is sold.

If you use the online version of the code, try searching on "21.15.012" or "21.15.010" for more information. Please note that recent amendments may not have been published yet. Land Use Enforcement will be happy to verify the current code language for you.