Here’s how to seek a zoning variance

In an ideal world, you’d secure real estate that suited your every need for as long as you occupied it. In reality, though, needs change, and your ability to adapt the use of your real estate may be blocked by existing zoning ordinances. In these circumstances, it can be easy to feel like you’ve gotten the short end of the stick, but you have legal avenues available to you that you can utilize in hopes of achieving the outcome you desire.

How Nashville zoning ordinances work

If you need to use your real estate for some purpose outside of its current zoning restrictions, then you should consider a zoning variance. While not all properties can be subjected to a variance, a lot of them can.

To start the process, you need to file an application with the board of zoning appeals, which will then forward a summary of that application to the district councilmember. Your application will then be set for a public hearing within 60 days. Here, you can present testimony and other evidence to support why you should be granted a variance. You need to target your arguments toward certain statutorily identified characteristics, such as:

  • The physical characteristics of the property
  • Any unique characteristics possessed by the property
  • Whether you created the hardship that you’re now facing
  • Any injury that may be caused to surrounding property owners
  • How the public welfare will be affected by the variance
  • Whether the master development plan for the area will be impacted by the variance

When the board decides on your application, it should issue findings of fact, regardless of whether you win, which can then serve as the basis of an appeal.

Do you need help with your zoning ordinance issue?

A zoning ordinance can quickly derail your expectations for your property. But you shouldn’t just cave into an applicable ordinance. Instead, you should carefully consider how you can build a case that seeks to preserve your full interest in and use of the property in question. This means knowing the law, how it applies to your facts, and how you can use it to your advantage.


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