Initiating/Managing a BZA Case
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Cases heard before the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) usually pertain to residential or commercial property owners who seek relief from applicable area or use-related regulations, generally on smaller properties. The BZA also hears appeals of the Zoning Administrator’s decisions and Foreign Missions cases.
Examples of BZA cases include: proposing to construct a deck on a property that infringes upon the minimum rear yard setback; proposing to construct a residential addition beyond lot occupancy requirements; proposing to establish a home office use; and appealing the Zoning Administrator's denial of a building permit.
The following are the different types of BZA cases:
Generally, there are two types of variances: area variances and use variances. The BZA is authorized to waive strict application of any part of the Zoning Regulations where, due to an exceptional situation, the strict application of the Zoning Regulations results in "exceptional practical difficulties or exceptional and undue hardship" upon a property owner. 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. In granting a variance, the BZA allows the owner to do something with the property without requiring strict compliance with the Zoning Regulations.
Variances are not automatically granted upon application and hearing before the BZA. The applicant is responsible for meeting the burden of proof associated with the particular relief requested. It is required that an applicant review the applicable provisions of the Zoning Regulations as they relate to the request and submit a detailed statement explaining how the application meets the specific tests identified in the Zoning Regulations for variance relief. Click here to view the variance form and instructions page.
A special exception is a conditioned, permitted use in a particular zone district; that is, the use is permitted provided certain specific criteria are met to ensure that certain negative impacts will not occur. A Special Exception may be granted for a particular use of land or for a particular building.
Special exceptions are not automatically granted. The applicant is responsible for meeting the burden of proof associated with the particular relief requested. It is required that an applicant review the applicable provisions of the Zoning Regulations as they relate to the request and submit a detailed statement explaining how the application meets the specific tests identified in the Zoning Regulations for a special exception. Click here to view the special exception form and instructions page.
The BZA is authorized to hear cases where it is alleged that the decision of any administrative officer or body related to the enforcement or administration of the Zoning Regulations is incorrect. The BZA also hears appeals of the zoning administrative decisions, and foreign missions cases administrative decision. Under the Civil Infractions Act of 1985, the BZA is authorized to hear administrative appeals from the decision of an administrative law judge involving the Zoning Regulations. Click here to view the Appeals form and instructions page.
Any modification that is considered greater than a minor modification or a modification of consequence is considered a modification of significance. Click here to view the modification of significance form and instructions page
A minor modification is a modification to an approved application that does not change the material facts upon which the Board based its original approval. A modification of consequence is a proposed change to a condition cited by the Board in the final order, or a redesign or relocation of architectural elements and open spaces from the final design approved by the Board. Click here to view the minor modification/modification of consequence form and instructions page.
Pursuant to the Foreign Mission Act of 1982, the location, expansion, or replacement of a chancery in certain mixed use areas of the city is subject to review by the BZA.
Foreign Mission cases are heard before the Foreign Mission Board of Zoning Adjustment (FMBZA), which is comprised of the members of the BZA with the Executive Director of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) sitting instead of his/her designee. Click here to view the Foreign Missions form and instructions page.