FAQ: Board of Zoning Appeals PDF Print E-mail

What are the responsibilities of the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals?

The Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) is composed of five residents of Washington County appointed by the County Circuit Court for five-year terms. The BZA is responsible for hearing and deciding requests for variances from the terms of the County Zoning Ordinance (Chapter 66 of the 2002 Code of the County of Washington Virginia, as amended) as will not be contrary to the public interest, when, owing to special conditions a literal enforcement of the provisions of the County Zoning Ordinance would result in unnecessary hardship. The BZA is also responsible for hearing and deciding appeals from determinations made by the Washington County Department of Zoning Administration in the administration of the County Zoning Ordinance. The BZA is a quasi-judicial body whose rulings may be appealed to the Washington County Circuit Court. The BZA cannot rezone property nor grant Special Exception Permits; these are actions taken through the Washington County Planning Commission and Washington County Board of Supervisors. Likewise, only the BZA can grant variances or hear appeals of determinations rendered by the County Zoning Administrator. The BZA cannot rule on matters pertaining to the Washington County Subdivision Ordinance (Chapter 54 of the 2002 County Code).

What is a “variance”?

A variance is a relaxation of the terms of the County Zoning Ordinance where such variance will not be contrary to the public interest and where, owing to conditions peculiar to the property and not the result of the action of the applicant for the variance or property owner, a literal enforcement of County Zoning Ordinance would result in unnecessary and undue hardship to the property owner.

In Washington County, a variance is authorized only for height, area, and size of structure or size of yards and open spaces. Most typically a variance is sought from the setback requirements of the County Zoning Ordinance. Establishment or expansion of a use of property otherwise prohibited by the County Zoning Ordinance shall not be allowed by variance, nor shall a variance be granted because of the presence of nonconformities in the zoning district in which the property lies or adjoining zoning districts to the property. The concurring vote of 3 of the 5 BZA members is necessary in order to grant a variance.

How do I apply for a variance?

An Application for Variance form is found within the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeal's webpage. Applicants shall complete this form, sign and submit along with the required supporting documentation to the County Department of Zoning Administration. Persons who believe they need or are eligible for a variance should first consult with the County Department of Zoning Administration before completing this form. A $50.00 fee is required at the time of submission of an Application for Variance.

What is a “determination”?

The County Department of Zoning Administration, through the County Zoning Administrator, is required to interpret the applicability of the County Zoning Ordinance to specific situations in order to decide (determine) whether the situation is or is not consistent with the ordinance’s provisions. Where an interpretation of the County Zoning Ordinance by the County Zoning Administrator is adverse to the interests of any party, an appeal of the determination may be made to the BZA within 30 days of the County Zoning Administrator’s rendering of the determination in writing. The BZA must hear and decide the matter within 60 days of the date an appeal of the determination is filed in writing with the Department of Zoning Administration. In exercising its powers, the BZA may reverse or affirm, wholly or partly, or may modify the determination appealed from. The concurring vote of 3 of the 5 BZA members is necessary to affirm, reverse or modify any determination of the County Zoning Administrator.

How do I receive a determination?

Generally, the County Zoning Administrator will not issue formal written determinations unless requested to do so in writing and usually after prior consultation with the requesting party. Determinations are only rendered where the County Zoning Administrator is required to interpret the meaning or intent of the County Zoning Ordinance or its application to a particular situation. The plain language of the County Zoning Ordinance is not subject to written determination and may not be appealed to the BZA. The County Zoning Administrator may take up to 90 days after receiving a written request to render a determination in writing.

How do I appeal a determination?

An Appeal of Zoning Determination form is found within the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeal's webpage. An appeal of the County Zoning Administrator’s determination must be filed in writing directed to the County Department of Zoning Administration, with copy to the County Zoning Administrator and Washington County Attorney. A fee of $50.00 payable to the County of Washington, Virginia must be submitted along with the appeal. The County Zoning & Subdivision Official acts as secretary to the BZA and will prepare the necessary Board of Zoning Appeals meeting agenda documents, schedule and advertise the appeal hearing , and forward the appeal documents to the BZA. In most cases, the Washington County Attorney prepares the appeal case for the County Zoning Administrator and presents the case before the BZA. It is recommended but not required that appellants retain private legal counsel to assist in the preparation and presentation of appeals of determinations before the BZA. All costs of private legal services are solely the responsibility of the appellant.

How to I appeal an adverse decision of the BZA?

Any person aggrieved by any decision of the BZA may present to the Circuit Court of the Washington County a petition specifying the grounds on which aggrieved within 30 days after the filing of the decision in the County Department of Zoning Administration. Upon the presentation of such petition, the Circuit Court shall allow a writ of certiorari to review the decision of the BZA. The allowance of the writ shall not stay proceedings upon the decision appealed from; but the Circuit Court may, on application, on notice to the BZA and on due cause shown, grant a restraining order. The appeal will be heard by the Circuit Court, whose decision shall be final and unappealable.

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