The Zoning code assures you and your neighbors that any new development or design changes to your or adjacent properties will not adversely affect your enjoyment and use of your or your neighbor’s property. Any changes to existing zoning requirements prepared by a building architect need a careful review of all factors to protect you and your neighbors (City Ordinance 28.181(4)).
If your proposed project can not meet the existing zoning code requirements for yard size or setbacks due to the physical surroundings and shape or topography of the property, you may apply for a zoning variance. Under some circumstances a zoning variance may be possible.
To obtain a zoning variance, you must establish that to meet the existing zoning requirements would be a hardship or practical difficulty.
- There are conditions unique to the property of the applicant that do not apply generally to other properties in the district.
- The variance is not contrary to the spirit, purpose, and intent of the regulations in the zoning district and is not contrary to the public interest.
- For a use variance, compliance with the strict letter of the ordinance will result in no reasonable use of the property.
- For an area variance, compliance with the strict letter of the ordinance would unreasonably prevent use of the property for a permitted purpose or would render compliance with the ordinance unnecessarily burdensome.
- The alleged difficulty or hardship is created by the terms of the ordinance rather than by a person who has a present interest in the property.
- The proposed variance shall not create substantial detriment to adjacent property.
- The proposed variance shall be compatible with the character of the immediate neighborhood.
- In the floodplain districts, the variance shall not cause any increase in the regional flood elevations or profiles, permit a lower degree of flood protection in the floodplain than the flood elevation, allow any floor, basement or crawlway below the regional flood elevation, allow actions without the required amendments nor have the effect of allowing or expanding a use or building which is prohibited in the zoning district.
- In the floodplain districts, the lot for which the variance is requested, shall be less than one-half (1/2) acre and shall be contiguous to existing structures constructed below the regional flood elevation.
- In floodplain districts, the variance shall not increase costs for rescue and relief efforts.
Discuss with Zoning staff
Meet with the Zoning staff before submitting your application. Zoning staff can review your project and discuss the likelihood of obtaining a zoning variance.
Find out the zoning for your property
Where to go:
Department of Planning & Community & Economic Development
126 S Hamilton St
Madison, WI 53703
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday
Submit Zoning Variance Application
Submit your zoning variance application packet to the Zoning staff.
What to include:
- A completed application form
- Two (2) copies of the present and proposed building elevation, floor plan and site plan drawn to scale.
- The $300 non-refundable fee payable to the City of Madison Treasurer.
Zoning Board of Appeals Public Hearing
Zoning staff schedules a public hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals. Notice of the hearing is sent to the applicant, the alderperson, and the owners and residents of all property within 200 feet of the proposed variance. The hearing notice is also published three times in the local newspaper. It is important that you attend and give testimony at this hearing (See Applicant Letter).
The Zoning Board of Appeals makes the final decision on a zoning variance request. It may also impose conditions and restrictions to protect the interests of all parties. You may appeal through the courts if your variance is denied.
If your variance request is approved, you can apply for the necessary construction permits.