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Navigating the Board of Zoning Appeals in Indiana

On Behalf of | Apr 5, 2024 | Zoning

Indiana’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) serves a crucial role in helping merge diverse community interests. 

The Board of Zoning Appeals in Indiana operates within a defined jurisdiction that typically includes matters related to zoning regulations and land use. Its primary purpose is to hear appeals and grant variances in specific situations where strict adherence to zoning laws would result in unnecessary hardship for property owners.

What does it take to get a variance from the BZA?

That’s a tough question, without any easy answer. A lot of what you need to do depends upon the kind of variance you need.

Variances from development standards involve situations where property owners seek relief from specific zoning requirements, such as setback distances, building height limitations, or lot coverage. The BZA reviews these requests on a case-by-case basis, considering factors like unique property conditions, topography or historic significance that may justify deviation from standard regulations. Variance from development standards can apply to situations where a business wouldn’t have the right amount of parking or wouldn’t be set back far enough from the street to suit the current zoning requirements.

In general, to get a development standards variance approved, you have to show that the variance:

  • Will not negatively affect the public or general community
  • Will not substantially affect the value and use of any adjacent property
  • Would create practical difficulties in the use of the property if not granted

Variances for use or special exceptions involve situations where property owners seek permission to use their land for purposes not explicitly allowed under existing zoning regulations. These requests often pertain to unique circumstances that make the proposed use reasonable and justifiable within the community context. A use variance might be requested, for example, to permit a bed and breakfast to open in a residential area.

For a use variance to be approved, you must meet the first two criteria mentioned above, plus show that:

  • The variance is needed due to some condition specific to the property
  • The strict application of the zoning laws would create unnecessary hardship
  • The approval doesn’t significantly interfere with the overall zoning plan

As you can imagine, winning a zoning variance request requires a strong grasp of the legal nuances involved – and a lot of persuasion. Experienced legal guidance can help you learn more.