What is a “variance,” and how is one granted?

The City Council appoints a 5-member “Zoning Board of Adjustment” or ZBA. Whenever a person cannot be granted a building permit under the current guidelines, he/she may apply for the ability to vary from the rules. A person can apply for a variance at City Hall. As a part of the application, the person must pay a fee and submit the names and addresses of property owners within 200 feet of his/her property. Those names and addresses can be obtained at the Jackson County Courthouse. A public hearing then must be set up before the ZBA and the neighboring property owners must be notified of the hearing by City Hall. The neighboring property owners may speak either for or against the proposed project

In this process, it is the role of the ZBA:
“To hear requests for variances from the literal provisions of the zoning regulations in instances where strict enforcement of the zoning regulations would cause undue hardship due to circumstances unique to the individual property under consideration, and grant such variances only when it is demonstrated that such action will be in keeping with the spirit and intent of the provisions of the zoning regulations. The Board of Adjustment shall not permit, as a variance, any use in a district that is not permitted under the regulations. The Board of Adjustment may impose conditions in the granting of a variance to insure compliance and to protect adjacent property.”