The Board of Variance is a group of three community members appointed by Council to provide review and make decisions on property owners’ requests for variances. While the Board does seek guidance from City Staff, they also weigh the input of citizens along with past variances and experience to make their ultimate decision.
The Board can hear applications for changing the siting, size and dimensions of a building or structure, along with any subdivision servicing requirements. Also, the Board oversees any structural alterations or additions to buildings considered to be legal Non-Conforming Uses.
The Board must make their decisions using three pieces of information: Can the Board hear the request?; Is the request minor?; and, Is the request the result of undue hardship?
The Board cannot allow for any change in use or density not allowed under the Zoning Bylaw. This would require an amendment or re-zoning by Council. Nor can the Board allow for a variance that would conflict with a statutory covenant registered on Title, floodplain or negatively affect the environment or the enjoyable use of adjacent land.
The Board also may not alter a request in any way, including increasing or decreasing the variance or adding conditions for approval of the application. They simply must approve or deny the variance as put forward by the applicant – and as shown on the Notice.
Hardship basically means the present Zoning Bylaw would prevent the fair and enjoyable use of the applicant’s land. Some examples include: Required cover from the elements, restrictive topography or odd-shaped lots. A hardship does not necessarily have to possess a monetary value or physical construct to be accepted by the Board, nor is hardship equitable between properties and owners.
There is no set percentage that defines minor, rather, the Board can take the application in context and the area as-a-whole in order to make this decision. A 100% front-yard setback may not be suitable in some areas, whereas others it is quite appropriate – but the applicant is not limited in what and for how much of a variance they can apply. If you feel that their request is beyond minor, it is up to you to inform the Board.
Siting, or the location of a structure on a property in regard to neighbouring structures or properties, aims to resolve a number of issues that impact the community, including: overcrowding, line-of-site, privacy and noise mitigation, shadowing and even aesthetics. To achieve this, Zoning Bylaws set Yard Setbacks for some zones where specific buildings and structures are not permitted. Reasons for relaxing Siting can be when there are no other alternatives available or when proper siting will negatively affect use of the land, such as accessibility, blocking views or creating shadows.
Sometimes, a Zoning Bylaw is changed by Council to reflect the will and needs of its citizens or to direct development in specific areas – for example, expanding a commercial area – and occasionally a structure exists and pre-dates any City Zoning Bylaw. When this occurs, the buildings and use on the property are considered a legal Non-Conforming Structures or Uses and allowed to remain as long as they remain in use. But, if that property owner wishes to alter those buildings in any way, by law, they must go before the Board of Variance for approval, even if they are not seeking a variance to a specific part of a Bylaw. If a change of use if proposed, a rezoning would be required.
Alternatively, a legal Non-Conforming Structure or Use may be damaged by natural forces. The Board may also act as a tribunal to hear requests to rebuild for the Use if it was deemed to be over 75% destroyed, which would normally halt that Use.
The earliest Board of Variance decision we have on record is from 1972.
All properties with a Board of Variance decision made since 1991 will be in this system. As we go through older records, we will add earlier decisions as they are found.
You have received this notice because a neighbour has made an application to the Board of Variance for relief from either a Zoning or Subdivision Servicing Bylaw. This occurs when someone wants to build – or has built – a building or structure that will not or cannot conform to an existing Bylaw as adopted by Council.
A variance is the relief of a specific section of a bylaw, such as the Zoning Bylaw, in order to construct a building or structure not normally permitted. A variance can be for a part or degree of the section, such as reducing a front yard setback from 6m to 5m – or for the removal of an entire section, such as the location of a permitted use.
Yes, on average there are 20 such requests every year – some of which are approved, some denied – but every one different. Variances can also be granted for new developments, such as in established zones where a specific design is desired but not permitted. The Board of Variance is just one way a property owner may get relief from a bylaw.
Council establishes bylaws to help organize how the City grows. However, not every property in the City has the same shape, size or location – nor does every property owner have the same needs – and no Bylaw could ever be written to accommodate all of these differences. Variances aid in providing fair, enjoyable use of a property while considering the fair and enjoyable use of neighbouring properties, including yours.
It may not – or, not directly. Often variances tend to be very minor or have little effect on the enjoyable use of neighbouring properties. But sometimes variances could affect your property in unknown or more temporal ways. It is always recommended to review all aspects of a variance, including how it may affect your future plans or the resale of your property
No. This letter is for your information only and there is no obligation on your part to respond. But, if in reviewing the request to the Board, you have any concerns or wish to voice your support of the variance, contact Staff at City Hall or attend the Board of Variance meeting as indicated on your notice.
If you are unable to attend, please submit your comments in writing about this application. You are also allowed to send someone in your stead to the meeting to represent your views – but please inform Staff to ensure the Board is aware that the person present is speaking for the actual property owner.
If the Board approves the variance, the decision is considered final. Council, or Staff, do not have the power to overturn a Boards decision, only the Provincial Courts – and only if they find that the Board was acting beyond its jurisdiction or if they find procedural error.
If the Board rejects the proposal, the applicant may re-apply for a different variance or seek Council’s approval through a Development Variance Permit. If this were to occur, you will get notified again and will have the same right to respond. Often, the proceedings and public comments from the meeting of the refusal will be referenced for any future variance applications.
Then please contact us at City Hall! We welcome all questions and are eager to assist in any way. Call us at: 250.427.9665, email at: firstname.lastname@example.org send a lettered response to: 340 Spokane St. Kimberley BC V1A 2E8