A variance is legally binding permission from a governing body (most commonly the local zoning board) to legally use land in a way which would otherwise be prohibited by laws and regulations.

The most common variance applied for is in regards to setbacks. Although criteria for granting variances will vary greatly between jurisdictions, most jurisdictions will not consider an application unless the specific conditions of the site allow for no other solutions, granting the variance will not unfairly give the property owner an advantage over similarly burdened landowners, and granting the variance will not pose a risk to life, safety, and welfare.

It should also be noted that variances will almost always be granted should the property be subjected to regulatory taking.
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