When you purchase a residential or commercial property in New York City, you are subject to the zoning regulations. These laws govern the use of the property and vary depending on your exact location and other factors, but a variance may be available if issues arise with the zoning. If you make a request to the Department of Buildings for a permit and receive a denial, a variance would be your next step if you want to pursue the project in question.
These are the common questions property owners in New York City have about seeking a zoning variance.
How can I ask for a variance?
You must apply for a zoning variance through the Board of Standards and Appeals. Your application must show that you cannot meet the existing zoning regulations because of hardship or practical issues these laws cause at your location. You can ask for either a use variance, which is an exception to the zoning use regulations for the property, or an area variance, which requests a change to the location’s physical or dimensional requirements.
When do I need a variance?
Property owners must have a zoning variance for any use of the property outside its zoning. Some examples of situations that require a variance include:
- You want to include more apartments in a multifamily residential building than zoning currently allows.
- You want to build a structure, shed or garage taller than 10 feet.
- You want a fence higher than the maximum height for your building’s zone.
- You want to use more than 25% of your home to start a business.
- You want to add a community facility in the ground floor of a residential building.
- You want to add a sign to your property that exceeds the maximum size for your building’s zone.
- You want to add a new curb cut to your location.
The BSA will review your request and determine whether the variance would pose environmental issues or nuisance to neighbors. If the board decides not to grant your variance, you can challenge the zoning decision in court.