Board of Zoning Appeals hears requests for variances

The Hillsboro Board of Zoning Appeals doesn?t hold many meetings, but it does hold a lot of responsibility.

The board is responsible for looking at issues arising about zoning. It has three primary powers.

n If the city has made a ruling on a zone and the person feels it was made in error, it can be appealed to the board. The board?s decision then can be challenged in district court.

n The board also deals with exceptions with zoning regulations.

Lowell Goering, chairman, said the board hasn?t had the occasion to deal with the first two powers.

n The third power, which is more common, is to grant variances based on criteria determined by the state. The variance is given to a specific case for a plot of land.

In this capacity, the board considers whether to grant a variance on the basis of safety, health and public interest. The board also looks at neighboring properties.

?The (variances) we deal with are in the side-yard and rear-yard setbacks,? Goering said.

He said they also receive requests for variances to build backyard sheds and garages when there is insufficient room within the setbacks.

Some of these situations arise because much of the city existed before the zoning regulations were created, and those houses are considered ?nonconforming,? Goering said.

Variances are needed because it is not realistic to move the buildings or homes to meet regulations.

Other problems arise in older sections of town, where lots were narrow, making it more difficult to meet regulations.

?I think if we had strict adherence to guidelines as they are there could be some strict penalties on people because of location,? Goering said.

He said it?s interesting because if a house is destroyed by fire, for instance, and the person wants to rebuild in the same location, they must have a variance if regulations are not met.

Members of the board learn about the statutes and regulations as they come across different cases.

People apply for the variance through the city and pay a fee. Then, a date is set for the meeting and a notice is published in the paper.

Goering said variances are almost always granted.

?In some ways it?s an awesome job with the power entrusted with us,? Goering said.

The board, created and established by Kansas statute, meets as needed. Goering said the local body usually meets one to three times a year.

Members of the board are Goering, Kyle Cederberg, Jim Brennan, G. George Ens and Greg Nickel.

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