Mount Airy proposes change in zoning variance standard Less restrictive measure would be required

October 08, 1998|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Mount Airy Board of Zoning Appeals soon might have a less restrictive standard to apply on requests for zoning variances.

The Town Council has introduced a proposal to change a section of the zoning ordinance that requires people seeking variances to show they face a "hardship" to justify the variance. The proposed change would require applicants to show they face "practical difficulty" in meeting zoning law.

Mount Airy Planning Commission recommended the change to a "practical difficulty" standard, after the 1998 General Assembly passed a law clearing the way for towns to adopt the new definition.

As a practical matter, the town zoning appeals board has been stretching the definition of hardship to include situations that more accurately fit "practical difficulty," said Councilman William Stroh, liaison to the town planning commission.

He said variances have been granted to residents whose houses were built too close to a property line. In Stroh's view, such cases presented a practical difficulty, rather than a hardship.

Carroll County uses the practical difficulty standard.

County Zoning Administrator George Beisser said he interprets practical difficulty to mean a situation not caused by the applicant. For instance, if a homeowner can't comply with zoning setbacks because of topography or the location of a well and septic system, that's a practical difficulty, he said.

The council plans to consult its attorney on whether a public hearing is required to amend Mount Airy's zoning law.

Pub Date: 10/08/98

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