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Zoning Adjustments, Variances, and Appeals


Projects that do not meet zoning requirements can revise the project to comply with the zoning code or may choose to pursue one of the following avenues:

  1. Request an administrative adjustment from staff (for a minor exception to the code),
  2. Request a zoning variance from the Board of Adjustment, or
  3. Appeal a zoning decision to the Board of Adjustment.

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Administrative adjustments allow minor adjustments to the Denver Zoning Code when there is an unnecessary hardship or a need to comply with federal law. The adjustment is approved or denied by the zoning administrator, based on specific criteria outlined in Sections 12.4.5.5 and 12.4.7.5-6 of the Denver Zoning Code.

Apply for an administrative adjustment through your assigned project reviewer. Your reviewer will advise you on what to submit, which typically includes an application, a narrative detailing the basis for the hardship, and additional documentation proving the hardship. An administrative review fee will apply. Most administrative adjustment decisions are made within two weeks. Please contact your reviewer or ZoningAdministration@denvergov.org if you have any questions.

A variance may be appropriate when a permit is denied because a project does not meet zoning requirements due to an unnecessary hardship, as defined in DZC 12.4.7.5

Once your project reviewer has made a decision to deny based on a zoning violation, inform the reviewer of your decision to request a variance and obtain an “informal denial” form from the reviewer to submit to the Board of Adjustment. Variance requests may be submitted at any time.

All variance requests will need to meet the review criteria in DZC 12.4.7.5 and 12.4.7.6.

If the variance request relates to the denial of a zoning permit for construction, you must also submit two copies of a scaled site plan, floor plan and elevation drawings to the Board. An incomplete submittal will not be accepted for filing for a hearing date.

 

I haven't applied for a zoning permit yet but I know I will need a variance.

All applicants must start by submitting a zoning application and project plans so zoning staff can review the entire project, even if you know your project will not meet zoning standards.

  • Why? Decisions of the Board of Adjustment apply only to the plans submitted. Reviewers must complete a full review before this point to identify which zoning standards are/are not met.

Before submitting zoning plans, review the DZC criteria referenced above. If you believe your project will meet the criteria for a variance, include a narrative on the zoning plans submitted for review that describes all items that do not conform to the zoning code. The submittal should include a brief explanation identifying the unnecessary hardship in complying with the strict letter of the zoning code, including the neighborhood context if appropriate.

NOTE: Please be aware that zoning decisions are not a building permit. Zoning approval does not mean the project meets building codes. A separate building code review will still be required before construction can begin. Please take building codes into account when designing plans, even for a zoning-only review, as changes in the future to meet building or wastewater (SUDP) requirements may void any zoning variance or appeal granted and will require a new zoning review.

If you believe that zoning review staff erred in interpreting or applying the zoning code’s standards, you may seek an appeal from the Board of Adjustment. Actions of the zoning administrator, zoning permitting staff, or zoning inspectors may be appealed to the Board. Appeals must be submitted within 15 days of the zoning decision. 

An appeal may be appropriate for the following:

  • Zoning permits issued or denied based on an error in interpreting/applying the zoning code,
  • A zoning enforcement order to cease and desist,
  • Any other kind of zoning enforcement action, or
  • A formal written code or use determination (e.g., a determination to allow an unlisted temporary use or a home occupation).

If the appeal relates to the denial of a zoning permit for construction, you must also submit two copies of a scaled site plan, floor plan and elevation drawings to the Board. An incomplete submittal will not be accepted for filing for a hearing date.

Once a zoning decision is appealed, any action of the zoning administrator or staff directly related to the appeal is stayed until the Board hearing.

 

Zoning Permit Applications

Multifamily and commercial projects

For projects in multifamily or commercial buildings, use the commercial zoning permit applications:


Single-family homes and duplexes

The Residential Permitting Guide (PDF) contains both zoning and building permit information.

Applications for zoning-only reviews must include all information from this guide, except 

  • structural drawings,
  • soils reports,
  • IECC compliance, 
  • items listed on page 4 of the guide, and
  • the asbestos and affordable housing fee forms.

Questions?

Please include your name, property address, phone number, and details of your question(s) so we can make sure the right person returns your call/email.

Commercial and multifamily buildings:

Single-family homes and duplexes: