How long does it take to get a Special Permit or Variance?

The appeal process generally takes four to five weeks, depending on the project. You can help move the process along by providing the Board with up-to-date information (and by providing the Board with all the necessary information and plans, including Certified Plot Plans). Please refer to the Application packet for more information on what must be submitted.

Why do I need a Special Permit or Variance?

The most common reason why a Special Permit is necessary is that the proposed dwelling or altered dwelling does not meet setback requirements set forth in the bylaw. Therefore, in order to “alter, change or extend a pre-existing non-conforming structure”, you may need relief from the bylaw in the form of a Special Permit or Variance. Usually you will be referred to the Board of Appeals by the Building Commissioner upon application for a building permit. Requirements for a Special Permit or Variance are set forth in the Zoning bylaw.

What’s the difference between a Special Permit and a Variance?

A Special Permit is required generally if your structure is non-conforming and you wish to make an alteration or extension to it. The Board of Appeals approval or special exceptions shall not be granted unless the applicant demonstrates that “no undue nuisance, hazard, or congestion will be created and that there will be no substantial harm to the established or future character of the neighborhood nor of the town”. A variance is required if you want to do something with your property which is generally prohibited by the Zoning Bylaw. The applicant must show a hardship imposed by the Bylaw which is caused by a unique condition of the lot, or structure, and the hardship is owing to circumstances relating to the soil conditions, shape or topography of the land or structure and especially affecting the land or structures, but not affecting generally the zoning district in which it is located. Relief may be granted without substantial detriment to the public good, and without nullifying or substantially derogating from the intent or purpose of such ordinance or bylaw. The criteria for a Variance is very strict, you might want to look at all of your options before applying. I just received a notice that my neighbor is applying for a Special Permit or Variance for his property.

What should I do?

You should call or visit the Board of Appeals office to review the plans, prior to the hearing. The Board receives correspondence and or commentary from the public during the hearing process and considers these comments in rendering their decision. Letters received prior to the hearing will be read into the record.

What happens at the public hearing?

The Board Chairman will open the hearing by reading the application or legal ad into the record. The applicant (or their representative) is then called to make their presentation to the Board. Correspondence received from Page 1 Zoning (or their representative) is then called to make their presentation to the Board. Correspondence received from other town boards and or committees is read into the record as well as any correspondence from abutters. The Board members may ask questions of the applicant, and then the Chairman will ask if any audience members wish to speak. After all of the input the Board may close the public portion and discuss the request among themselves. A decision is usually made the night of the hearing and the Special Permit and or Variance is granted or denied at that time.

What happens after the Board reaches a decision?

Once the matter has been decided, a decision is written and recorded with the Town Clerk. After a 20 day appeal period, the permit is mailed to the applicant, who then files the permit with the Barnstable County Registry of Deeds. A copy is forwarded to the Board of Appeals Office and the Building Department. The Building Department may not issue a building permit or occupancy permit without receiving a copy of that recorded decision.

What if I ‘m not happy with the Board’s decision?

You may appeal the decision at Barnstable County Superior Court. Appeals procedures are outlined in M.G.L. Ch. 40A §17 and must be filed within 20 days of the filing of the decision with the Town Clerk. Who do I call with questions? The Law Offices of Paul R. Tardif at (508) 362-7799.