Variances

The Zoning Ordinance contains many dimensional requirements (i.e., lot line, road, highway, and navigable water setbacks, minimum parcel size requirements etc). together with numerous other restrictions. Due to unique property circumstances, it may not be possible for these requirements to be met in all cases. The purpose of the Variance Application is to allow relief from the provisions of the Ordinance in these situations. The Sawyer County Board of Appeals is the variance granting authority in Sawyer County.

To qualify for a variance, the applicant must demonstrate that their property meets each of the following three requirements, commonly referred to as the 3-step test.

Unique Property limitations


  • Unique physical limitations of the property such as steep slopes or wetlands that are not generally shared by other properties must prevent compliance with ordinance requirements.
  • The circumstances of the applicant (growing family, need for a larger garage, etc.) are not a factor in deciding variances.
  • Nearby ordinance violations, prior variances or lack of objections from neighbors do not provide a basis for granting a variance.

No Harm to Public Interests


A variance may not be granted which results in harm to public interests. These interests may include:
  • Public health, safety and welfare
  • Water quality
  • Fish and wildlife habitat
  • Natural scenic beauty
  • Minimization of property damages
  • Provision of efficient public facilities and utilities
  • Achievement of eventual compliance for nonconforming uses, structures and lots
  • Any other public interest issues

Unnecessary Hardship


  • The applicant must demonstrate that strict compliance with the terms of the zoning ordinance is unnecessarily burdensome.
  • An applicant may not claim hardship because of conditions which are self-imposed or created by a prior owner.
  • Economic or financial hardship does not justify a variance.
  • When determining whether unnecessary hardship exists, the property as a whole is considered rather than a portion of the parcel.

Steps in the Variance Application Procedures


  1. An onsite inspection must be made by a staff member of the Zoning Office and an Inspection Report completed and filed in the Zoning Office.
  2. The applicant contacts the Zoning Administration stating the variance(s) to be requested and the necessity for the granting of the variance(s).
  3. The Zoning Administrator or appointed staff makes a decision to allow or deny the request for variance.
  4. If the decision is to proceed with the variance application, an application is completed by the appointed zoning staff and presented to the applicant for his/her signature and pays the application fee ($400).
  5. If the decision is to deny the request for the applicant to pursue a variance, the applicant may:
    • Decide not to apply for the variance
    • Appeal the decision of the Zoning Administrator to the Sawyer County Board of Appeals (Appeal of Administrative Decision)
      • Complete an Administrative Appeal Application
      • Pay the appeal fee of $500
  6. The Sawyer County Board of Appeals will review the application at a scheduled public hearing. Public Hearing Procedure - Board of Appeals

Conclusions of Law


In deciding whether to approve or deny a request for variance the Sawyer County Board of Appeals will address each of the following Conclusions of Law.
  1. Unnecessary hardship is/is not present since strict application of the terms of the zoning ordinance would/would not render conformity with such restrictions unnecessarily burdensome, justification to be documented and supports the Board's conclusion.
  2. The hardship is/is not due to physical limitations of the property rather than the circumstances of the applicant because justification to be documented and supports the Board's conclusion.
  3. The variance will/will not be contrary to the public interest and will/will not observe the purpose the purpose of the ordinance and do justice because, justification to be documented and supports the Board's conclusion.