Zoning rules regulate the land uses and activities allowed on a particular property. In general, properties that are zoned and configured similarly should be permitted to be used in similar ways. However, sometimes unique physical constraints on specific sites prevent this. For example, it might be impossible to construct a home on a very narrow residential parcel without reducing the side yard setbacks required by the zoning code. In such cases, property owners may request a variance from zoning requirements to allow them to use their property as intended.
A variance is a minor exception to local zoning requirements that allows a property to be used in the same way as similarly zoned properties. Section 8111-1.2.2 of the Ventura County Non-Coastal Zoning Ordinance describes the variance process and specifies the requirements that must be met for a variance to be granted. Findings required for a variance include all of the following:
- There must be special circumstances or exceptional characteristics applicable to the subject property with regard to size, shape, topography, location or surroundings, which do not apply generally to comparable properties in the same vicinity and zone; and
- Granting the requested variance must not confer a special privilege inconsistent with the limitations upon other properties in the same vicinity and zone; and
- The strict application of the zoning regulations as they apply to the subject property must result in practical difficulties or unnecessary hardships inconsistent with the general purpose of such regulations; and
- The granting of such variance must not be detrimental to the public health, safety or general welfare, nor to the use, enjoyment or valuation of neighboring properties; and
- The granting of a variance in conjunction with a hazardous waste facility must be consistent with the portions of the County's Hazardous Waste Management Plan (CHWMP) which identify specific sites or siting criteria for hazardous waste facilities.
Variances are generally adjustments in the development standards detailed in the Non-Coastal Zoning Ordinance. A variance cannot allow a use that would not otherwise be permitted on a site. Variances may only be granted under unique circumstances, when the unusual configuration of a site distinguishes it from other properties in the same zone. Generally speaking, financial hardships alone or “self-induced” hardships (such as the voluntary sale of an adjoining parcel that leaves the remaining parcel too small for a preferred use) are not considered adequate for a variance. Variances are granted to property, and not to the property owners. When a property is sold, the variance transfers with the property to the new owners and does not remain with the original grantee.