WHAT IS A VARIANCE?
All property in the City of Buena Park is categorized into zones. Each zoning district has specific development standards such as parking requirements, setbacks, or building height limitations. There are occasions, however, when the strict application of such standards may be inappropriate because of physical characteristics of a particular property, such as shape or grade difference. The "variance" procedure is designed to permit adjustments to the zoning regulations when there are special or extraordinary physical circumstances applying to a parcel of land or building which prevent the property from being used to the extent intended by the zoning. Variances may only be granted when the physical surroundings, shape, or topographical conditions of a property result in a particular hardship to the owner, not a mere inconvenience or desire to make property development less costly.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR OBTAINING A ZONING VARIANCE?
Consideration of the Project
Early in the consideration of a project, the Zoning Ordinance should be carefully reviewed to see if all regulations are met. Nevertheless, the need for a variance is often discovered when an application is made for a building permit or other City approval. The applicant should thoroughly investigate alternatives to see if there is any way to accomplish the purpose of the project without requiring a variance.
Prior to submitting a formal application, the applicant is advised to make an appointment with a member of the Planning staff to discuss the feasibility of the request as well as any possible alternatives that may eliminate the need for a variance or improve the chance of a variance being granted. In addition, staff and applicant can review the required data and procedures to be followed through the process.
The Planning staff will then assess possible environmental concerns, and coordinate engineering and fire requirements, as well as traffic, landscaping and building design criteria. A planner will help you determine if the proposed use is consistent with the zoning, or if Planning Commission consideration is required. To make an appointment or to check zoning call the Planning Division at (714) 562-3620.
The applicant should submit the completed application, filing fee, and other required information to the Planning staff. This application should be submitted at the same time as any other applications for a project. A staff planner will be assigned to review the material to make sure all the required information is provided. The applicant will be notified within 30 days after filing as to whether the application is complete or what additional information is required.
Click Variance to download an application.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that all Variance requests be analyzed for potential environmental impacts. The applicant should request a meeting with a staff planner to determine the type of environmental analysis and process is necessary.
Planning Division Review for Planning Commission
The Planning staff will study the application by reviewing the relationship of the request to the City's Zoning Ordinance, General Plan and any applicable Specific Plans, and analyze the environmental, land use, traffic, site plan and other elements of the proposed project. A written staff report will be prepared for the Planning Commission which will include a description of the project and staff recommendations.
Planning Commission Review
The Planning Commission will study the request by reviewing the size, shape, topography, location, and surroundings of the site under consideration. In addition, the Planning Commission will consider similar proposals in the area as well as make an investigation of the site.
The Planning Commission is required to hold at least one public hearing on the Variance application. At least ten days prior to the meeting, owners of property within 300 feet of the subject site will be notified by mail of the forthcoming hearing, and a notice of the public hearing will be posted. At the public hearing, staff will first present an oral report and recommendation. This presentation will be followed by testimony from the applicant and then by any interested persons who may wish to comment on the application. The Planning Commission will make a decision approving or conditionally approving the request, denying the request, postponing the decision to a later date, or the Commission may keep the public hearing open and continue it to a specified time, date and place. The Planning Commission's decision is final, unless an appeal is filed as described below.
City Council Review
The decision of Planning Commission is final unless it is appealed to the City Council or called up for review by the City Council. The appeal must be filed within 10 working days after the date of the decision. After the appeal is filed, a public hearing will be scheduled for City Council consideration. To obtain appeal processing requirements, contact the City Clerk's office at (714) 562-3750.
The Planning Division is open from 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and closed alternating Fridays. If you have any questions, please contact the Planning Division staff at (714) 562-3620.