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Zoning laws and filing for a variance

On Behalf of | Mar 17, 2022 | Land Use And Zoning

When purchasing land in Delaware and elsewhere, property owners hope to use the land as they intend. However, obstacles can present some difficulties, creating challenges when it comes to utilizing their land for the purpose it was purchased for. Land use and zoning laws control dictate how land can be used and the type of structures or additions that can be built. If a property owner seeks to deviate from the land use or zoning laws set in place, he or she could seek a variance.


In simple terms, a variance is a request for approval to deviate from the zoning laws currently in place. This does not cause any change in the zoning laws; however, it provides a specific waiver of requirements for the zoning ordinance the property is located.

A variance is most often granted when the property owner can demonstrate that the current zoning regulations create difficulties when it comes to making use of their property. Each municipality has their own rules governing variance requests; however, when a property owner filed a request for a variance, this request will likely go before a zoning board and could be followed by a hearing to determine whether it should be granted.

Other ways to deviate from zoning laws

While filling for a variance could help a property owner deviate from current zoning regulations, there are other ways to address this if a variance request is not approved. An individual could apply for a change of zoning, which would rezone the land and allow for them to use it as they want.

Another option is to continue the usage of the land prior to a zoning change. This non-conforming usage of land is only available to those that were using the land prior to the zoning ordinances went into effect. They essential get to continue the land use despite it no longer being allowed by the changes to zoning. A final option is to obtain a conditional use permit. This is similar to a variance, as it allows a non-permitted use of the property.

While the details of the land and its zoning regulations should be known at the time of purchase or acquirement of property, this information is not always apparent. Additionally, the purpose of land could change over time. No matter the reason for seeking to deviate from current zoning regulations, it is important that property owners understand their situation, what rights they have, the options available and how to move forward with a filing that could better their situation.