A Variance is a permit that allows a landowner to construct a building or open a business without having to comply with the standards required of other landowners in the same zone. In rare instances, the Planning Commission may find that because of special circumstances of the property, such as size, shape, topography, location, or surroundings, the strict application of the zoning ordinance will deprive the property owner of privileges enjoyed by other properties in the vicinity and under similar zone.
The classic example involves a residential lot that is identical in size and shape to surrounding lots, but suffers from the presence of a large, immovable boulder. In this case, a variance waiving ordinary setback requirements may permit the landowner to build a house. However, economic hardship cannot form the basis for a variance.