A variance is a request to deviate from current zoning requirements. If granted, it permits the owner to use the land in a manner not otherwise permitted by the zoning ordinance. It is not a change in the zoning law. Instead, it is a specific waiver of requirements of the zoning ordinance.
Typically, variances are granted when the property owner can demonstrate that existing zoning regulations present a practical difficulty in making use of the property. Each jurisdiction municipality has rules for variance requests. Usually, the land owner seeking the variances files a request or written application for a variance and pays a fee. Normally, the requests go first to a zoning board. The zoning board notifies nearby and adjacent property owners. The zoning examiner may then hold a hearing to determine if the variance should be granted. The applicant may then be required to appear before the governing body of the municipality, such as a city council, for the final determination.