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Hardship Building Variances

The Comprehensive Land Development Resolution was created with the long-term benefit of the residents of Habersham County in mind. However, at times, owing to special circumstances, a decision based on a literal interpretation of the Resolution may cause unnecessary hardship. What can be done to provide relief in such cases?

Within 60 days after the decision has been made, an application (appeal) for a variance, specifying the grounds for the request, may be filed. A variance is a request or appeal that the Comprehensive Land Development Resolution requirements be waived or modified for one particular situation involving one building, structure, and/or parcel of land. It is not a request to change the Resolution itself. There are three stages to the variance process:

  1. Application: Through the Building and Planning Department
  2. Review: By the Planning Commission
  3. Hearing: By the Board of Commissioners

To be approved, variances must meet seven conditions as outlined in the resolution. Therefore, applications must be made through the Planning Department, whose job it is to determine if the seven conditions below apply in that particular situation.

  1. There are extraordinary and exceptional conditions pertaining to the particular piece of property in question because of its size, shape or topography that are not applicable to other land or structures in the same district; and
  2. A literal interpretation of the provisions of these regulations would create an unnecessary hardship and would deprive the applicant of rights commonly enjoyed by other property owners within the district in which the property is located; and
  3. Granting the variance requested will not confer upon the property of the applicant any special privileges that are denied to other properties of the district in which the applicant's property is located; and
  4. Relief, if granted, will be in harmony with the purpose and intent of this resolution and will not be injurious to the neighborhood or general welfare in such a manner as will interfere with or discourage the appropriate development and use of adjacent land and buildings or unreasonably affect their value; and
  5. The special circumstances are not the result of the actions of the applicant; and
  6. The variance requested is the minimum variance that will make possible the legal use of the land, building, or structure; and
  7. The variance is not a request to permit a use of land, building or structures which are not permitted by right in the district involved.

After a thorough review of the application, the Planning Commission (a board specializing in planning and zoning issues) formulates a recommendation to give to the Board of Commissioners (the governing body authorized to make the final decision in the case).

During the hearing before the Commissioners, the recommendation is presented, all assenting or dissenting views (if any) are taken into consideration, and any necessary discussion of the matter takes place. Then a decision is made to approve or disapprove the variance or table it for later consideration. If it is approved, additional conditions or modifications may be imposed by the governing body.

Although the variance process may take several weeks from application to decision, the time may be well worth it to someone who would suffer unnecessary hardship without this help.

For more information, see The Planning Commission.

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