Variances & Conditional Use Permits
The City of Windsor Heights works with Safe Building Iowa to process permits. Please send requests for Conditional Use Permits, for variances from the Zoning Ordinance or Sign Ordinance, and for appeals form staff’s administrative interpretations of said Ordinances to Safe Building Iowa at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 515-333-4161.
The forms for Conditional Use Permits, variances, and appeals of administrative decisions are available here:
- Variance requests, applications for Conditional Use Permits, and appeals from Administrative Decisions must be filed with the Building and Zoning Official.
- City staff will prepare and publish a notice for the required public hearing in an official newspaper, and notify neighboring property owners by letter. Staff will also evaluate the request to see if it conforms to the legal conditions governing the issuance of variances, conditional use permits, or administrative appeals, and prepare a report to the Board.
- Note that it is not legal to contact board members to discuss any matter. A public hearing is required for every request or appeal.
No one is allowed to contact members of the Board of Adjustment to discuss a variance request, not an appellant nor neighboring property owner, or even the Mayor and City Council members, since the Board is a quasi-judicial body. Questions or filings intended for the Board should be directed to the Building and Zoning Official. All communications must take place in the open meeting during the public hearing: communications of any sort at any other time are illegal just as it would be illegal to contact a judge or jury member, and may be subject to prosecution. The Board can require sworn testimony and can issue a "finding of fact" that is somewhat similar to a court opinion.
Purpose of the Variance Process
The variance process exists because the Zoning Ordinance must allow some reasonable use of a property, or a "regulatory taking" would occur and necessitate compensation to the property owner. A variance may be appropriate if:
- a property has unique conditions
- the ordinance creates a hardship for an individual property
- the spirit and intent of the ordinance will be satisfied while varying from the regulations in the manner requested
- no reasonable alternatives are available
If those legal tests cannot be met, a variance should not be granted. A variance is not appropriate as a matter of convenience, for a "hardship situation" that has been self-created, or if it would grant special privileges to an individual property.
Right of Appeal
The Board’s decision is final as far as the City’s process is concerned. The Mayor and City Council cannot over rule or alter the Board’s decision. If anyone feels a variance was improperly granted or denied, including the Mayor and the City Council, the Board’s decision must be appealed to the District Court. An appeal can be filed by the appellant, a citizen, or even the Mayor and the City Council. The Building and Zoning Official and the City Attorney advise the Board on proper proceedings and finding.