Zoning laws are, in general, positive for businesses and the community. However, a zoning law may make it difficult for you to fully benefit from commercial real estate.

Knox County provides an application process that allows you to seek a modification of the zoning requirements for your property.

Variance standards

The Board of Zoning Appeals will only grant you a variance if you meet certain criteria. You cannot receive a variance to use your property in a way that violates a district exclusion. Your property must have special conditions such as narrowness, siting or other features of the land that are not common in the district, and that keep you from reasonable use of it. Loss of value does not apply: only loss of use. The variance will not grant more leeway than is absolutely necessary for reasonable use.

Your burden of proof

You will have to prove to the Board that granting you the variance does not go against the public interest. You must also show that enforcing the original ordinance will cause you hardship that the variance can prevent without violating the provisions or spirit of the ordinance. Granting the variance must support justice.

The application process

The application is available at the Office of Code Administration, and you can file it there and pay the fee. You must include plans and specifications for your proposed structures and prepare to appear at the public hearing to put forth your case before the Board. If there is anyone who believes that your variance would have negative effects, he or she may offer opposition at the hearing.

You have the option to appeal the Board’s decision in court if you believe it is illegal, but you will have the burden of proof in that case, as well.