A "variance" is required when a property owner cannot satisfy zoning standards such as a minimum setback distance. A "variance" gives a property owner the ability to deviate from the governing code requirements. Each jurisdiction has its own rules, but they follow the same general type of process. In Montgomery County, the Board of Appeals will review the property owner's application materials and decide if the requested variance satisfies specific standards set out in the zoning code. To start the process, the property owner must file an application with certain supporting documentation and a filing fee. The Board will consider the application at a public hearing where the applicant, and anybody who wants to be heard in support of or opposition to the application, can speak.
Witnesses can be cross-examined, and the Board of Appeals can ask questions of any witness. At the close of the hearing the Board generally will vote, and will issue a written decision within several weeks. The Board's decision can be challenged in the Montgomery County Circuit Court by the property owner or other participants in the proceedings.