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Zoning Board of Adjustment

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The Chatham County Board of Adjustment, as established in Section 18 of the Zoning Ordinance, is empowered to hear and decide appeals from staff decisions as well as review and approve variances from the Zoning Ordinance.  Meetings of the Board of Adjustment are called as needed.  The Board is compromised of five regular members and two alternate members.

Calendar of Upcoming Hearings
of the
Zoning Board of Adjustment

Click here to view meeting calendar.
Note that the Board of Adjustment only
meets as needed

The Board of Adjustment follows a quasi-judicial procedure.  In a quasi-judicial procedure, the Board acts much like a panel of judges.  The Board holds a public hearing to allow the staff, applicant and other interested parties to present competent, substantial, and material factual evidence relating to the appeal or variance application.  The Board may subpoena witnesses and compel the production of evidence.           

Note:  Because the Boards may only consider evidence presented at the public hearing, it is improper for the petitioner or other interested parties to communicate with Board members outside of the hearing.      


Any enforcement action or official interpretation made by the Planning Department may be appealed to the Board of Adjustment by aggrieved parties.  All appeals shall be submitted to the Clerk to the Board of Commissioners within 30 days of enforcement or interpretation.  In order to initiate an appeal, a completed application and fee shall be submitted to the Clerk to the Board of Commissioners.  An appeal stays all proceedings in furtherance of the action appealed from unless the Zoning Administrator or other designee certifies to the Board of Adjustment that, based on the records of the case in question, a stay would cause imminent danger to life or property.   

Following a public hearing, the Board of Adjustment makes findings of fact supported by the presented evidence and decides whether or not the Zoning Administrator erred in making the decision being appealed.  The Board may affirm the staff decision or modify the decision (reversing it in whole or in part).   

Note:  The applicant bears the burden of presenting sufficient factual evidence to support findings of fact that allow the Board to decide in favor of the application.       

Appeal Application Fee: $500

Appeal Application Form PDF  Word  


When there are practical or unnecessary hardships in the way of carrying out the strict letter of this Ordinance, the Board of Adjustment is empowered in varying or modifying any of the regulations or provisions of the Zoning Ordinance relating to the construction or alteration of buildings or structures so that the spirit of the Ordinance shall be observed, public safety and welfare secured, and substantial justice done.  The Board of Adjustment may not, however, grant variances for the use of land or structures. 

Following a public hearing, the Board of Adjustment makes findings of fact supported by the presented evidence and decides whether or not it can reach each of the required conclusions.  It may approve the variance application only after it reaches all of the required conclusions.  The Board may approve an application subject to conditions reasonably necessary to allow it to reach the required conclusions. 

Variances from the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance may be granted if the following conclusions can be reached, based upon the presented evidence:

    1. Variances from the provisions of this Ordinance may be granted only upon appeal from a decision, action, determination, or order of the Zoning Enforcement Officer and shall demonstrate substantially the following: 
    a. Unnecessary hardship would result from the strict application of the ordinance. It shall not be necessary to demonstrate that, in the absence of the variance, no reasonable use can be made of the property. 

    b. The hardship results from conditions that are peculiar to the property, such as location, size, or topography. Hardships resulting from personal circumstances, as well as hardships resulting from conditions that are common to the neighborhood or the general public, may not be the basis for granting a variance. 
c. The hardship did not result from actions taken by the applicant or the property owner. The act of purchasing property with knowledge that circumstances exist that may justify the granting of a variance shall not be regarded as a self-created hardship. 
    d. The requested variance is consistent with the spirit, purpose, and intent of the ordinance, such that public safety is secured, and substantial justice is achieved. 

    2. Furthermore, the board of adjustment must make such findings of fact to substantiate all of these requirements. In considering applications for variances from the provisions of this Ordinance, demonstration of financial disadvantage alone shall not constitute conclusive evidence of unnecessary hardship.

    3. Appropriate conditions may be imposed on any variance, provided that the conditions are reasonably related to the variance. Any other ordinance that regulates land use or development may provide for variances consistent with the provisions of this subsection.

    4. Departure from or violation of any of those conditions or safeguards shall be deemed a violation of this Ordinance, and shall be subject to the penalties, as provided in Section 21.

    5. A variance, once granted, shall continue for an indefinite period of time unless otherwise specified at the time granted.

    6. No change in permitted uses may be authorized by a variance.

Note:  The applicant bears the burden of presenting sufficient factual evidence to support findings of fact that allow the Board to reasonably reach each of the required conclusions. 

Variance Application Fee: $500

Variance Application      PDF  Word  

Board of Adjustment Review Procedure
For more information about the submittal and procedural requirements, see Section 18 of the Chatham County Zoning Ordinance.   

The board of adjustment, by a vote of 4/5 of its members shall be necessary to grant a variance. A majority of the members shall be required to decide any other quasi-judicial matter or to determine an appeal made in the nature of certiorari. For the purposes of this subsection, vacant positions on the board and members who are disqualified from voting on a quasi-judicial matter shall not be considered ‘members of the board’ for calculation of the requisite supermajority if there are no qualified alternates available to take the place of such members. 

Every quasi-judicial decision shall be subject to review by the superior court by proceedings in the nature of certiorari pursuant to G.S. 160A-393. A petition for review shall be filed with the clerk of superior court by the later of 30 days after the decision is effective or after a written copy thereof is given in accordance with Section 18.3(c) of this Ordinance. When first-class mail is used to deliver notice, three days shall be added to the time to file the petition.

 A member of the board of adjustment shall not participate in or vote on any quasi-judicial matter in a manner that would violate affected persons’ constitutional rights to an impartial decision maker. Impermissible conflicts include, but are not limited to, a member having a fixed opinion prior to hearing the matter that is not susceptible to change, undisclosed ex parte communications, a close familial, business, or other associational relationship with an affected person, or a financial interest in the outcome of the matter. If an objection is raised to a member’s participation and that member does not recuse himself or herself, the remaining members shall by majority vote rule on the objection. 

For more information, please contact the Chatham County Zoning Administrator:
Angela Birchett, CZO 
(919) 542-8285

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