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When does one need a variance for a Phoenix development project?

A Phoenix property owner may have certain plans and goals for his or her property, whether it is a recent land acquisition or one they have owned for years. Before proceeding with specific real estate development plans, however, it is imperative to review and familiarize oneself with the City’s zoning requirements.

If a particular use is not allowed under the existing Phoenix zoning regulations it may still be possible to obtain permission from the City. One way to go about this is by obtaining a variance. A building owner who is requesting a variance is requesting that the City vary its development standards. For example, a property owner may be request an exception from the City’s building setback requirements.

Before issuing a variance, the city will hold a hearing. At the hearing, the party requesting the variance must establish why it wants the variance. Specifically, the requesting party must show that special circumstances apply to the particular property or use of the property that do not apply to other similarly zoned properties and that the owner, or previous owner, did not create these special circumstances. The City will consider whether it is necessary to approve the variance in order for the owner to have reasonable and substantial property rights. The City will not approve a variance if it determines the variance will be detrimental to nearby properties. An approved variance will follow the land and will not expire, unless noted otherwise.

The variance process can be complicated, with strict notice and filing requirements. It is essential to present a comprehensive picture of the necessity of a variance to the City for the best possible chance of approval. The guidance of an attorney can prove advantageous in this process, which can take up to six weeks to complete.

Source: phoenix.gov, “Zoning Information Guide,” accessed Aug. 28, 2015

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