How to Obtain a Special Exception

The Zoning Board of Adjustment may grant a special exception if the applicant shows the proposed use will not cause: (a) congestion in streets/transit systems; (b) Overcrowding the land; (c) Impairing light/air to adjacent property; (d) Burdening public facilities; (e) Impairing or permanently injuring the use of adjacent properties; (f) Endangering the public health or safety; or (g) Inconsistency with the Comprehensive Plan of the City.

If a special exception is required, the first step is to apply for a use registration permit from the Department of Licenses and Inspection. The application will be “referred” to the Zoning Board. The applicant has 30 days to appeal to the Zoning Board, which will schedule a hearing to decide whether to grant the special exception. Corporations must be represented by an attorney to appear before the Zoning Board.

Before going before the Zoning Board, the applicant must line up support from the neighborhood. In addition to circulating a petition to neighbors on surrounding blocks, the applicant must notify and meet with the registered community organization for the neighborhood where the property is located.

Each community group has their own requirements for applicants. Most require architectural drawings depending on the proposal. The Applicant must work to gain the support of the community before the hearing before the ZBA in order to maximize the chance of being granted a Special Exception. Even with support of the registered community organization, some neighbors may present evidence that the proposed use is likely to cause a detrimental impact on the health, safety, and welfare of the neighborhood.

Gaining the support of both the neighborhood group and the Zoning Board is a unique and difficult process that requires an experienced professional. Before beginning the process, you should seriously consider hiring an experienced zoning attorney.