Variances & Special Exceptions

Variances & Special Exceptions

One of the more frequent functions of the zoning hearing board is to act on applications for variances and special exceptions. Provisions of the zoning ordinance may place undue hardship upon a property owner; however, the ordinance contains provisions designed to remedy these situations.


A variance is a means of adjusting the literal terms of the zoning ordinance to fit the land which it regulates. It enables a property owner to use his land which, due to specific location, topography, size or shape, would otherwise not be suitable for development under the strict interpretation of the zoning ordinance. It is a permission granted as relief from unnecessary hardships that would be imposed by strict adherence to ordinance provisions. The variance acts as a relief valve to solve problems in applying general legislation to specific situations.

Special Exceptions

A special exception is permission or approval granted an applicant to use his land for a purpose other than what is generally permitted outright in that district. A special exception is neither special nor is it an exception. An applicant for a special exception is following the zoning ordinance. The application is one that is permitted by the ordinance if certain standards and conditions are met. The function of the zoning hearing board is to determine whether the application is consistent with the public interest as defined by the specific standards in the ordinance.

All special exceptions for each zoning district are specifically listed under the provisions for each district.


Since the board has no legislative power, it can neither make or modify zoning policy. Those powers are reserved to the governing body. Neither does the zoning hearing board have enforcement powers. The board schedules hearings on applications and appeals that come before it, takes evidence, and issues written decisions with findings of fact and conclusions of law.


View an Application (PDF) for the Zoning Hearing Board. This application includes variances and special exceptions.

The application fee for residential requests is $300.00 and $400.00 for commercial requests. The cost of legal advertisement is invoiced after the hearing.